The late comedian George Carlin famously spoke about seven words you can’t say on TV.

Not one to miss a chance to co-opt, I will offer you three words you should NEVER utter in an employment dispute.

There are the three words you should never say to your employer, to a legal investigator, to a judge, .. not even to this guy- your own attorney!


"Please don't say these words." Lionel Hutz

Here are the 3 words:

1. “Liar” (see also variations, “lied”/”falsified”/”fabricated”/”slandered”/”extorted”/etc.).

I know, I know. It’s hard NOT to use this terminology when you feel your opponent IS in fact a “liar.”

Problem is, if you tell people this word, then you are supplying them with their own conclusion (“That guy = LIAR”). They will resent you for it.

For example, say that you (Dude #A) tell a Judge that your opponent (Dude #B) is a “liar.” The Judge does not know Dude #B from Adam. The Judge does not know YOU, Dude #A, from Adam. All the Judge knows is that you are the Dude who is walking around saying that others are “liars.” This makes the credibility of Dude A (you) appear worse than Dude B (the “liar”).

If you want the judge to UNDERSTAND that Dude B is lying, then state the FACTS. As they say, show, don’t tell. Show the facts. You may tell the judge this:

“Dude B stated that the sky is green. I provided him this picture of the sky, which I will introduce as Exhibit A. The picture shows the sky is blue, not green as Dude B states.”

At this point, the decision-making party (judge, investigator, etc.) will make his or her own judgment about what is true. And if that decision-maker decides Dude B is “lying,” then that is THEIR conclusion to make, not yours. Don’t try to force-feed the decision-maker your conclusion.

2. “Incompetent” (see also “stupid”/ “disorganized”/ “ridiculous”/ etc.).

See above.

3. “Unfair” (see also “evil”/”biased”/”discriminatory”/etc.).

See above.

If you are in an employment dispute, the chances are high that things will get emotional, and that you will be tempted to use the words above. Avoid the temptation to use charged words or to supply conclusions. Don’t editorialize. You should discuss things in a polite, factual manner.

This blog is authored by Employee and H-1B Rights Attorney Michael Brown of the law firm of Peterson, Berk & Cross, and Immigration Attorney Vonda K. Vandaveer of the law firm V.K. Vandaveer, P.L.L.C.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is NOT legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship between you and the attorneys or law firms above. Legal advice often varies among situations. If you want legal advice for your specific circumstances, you must consult with an attorney.