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Ask HN: Should I testify?
292 points by goingtogetsued on Apr 11, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 238 comments
I've been contacted by a major law firm to testify against a former employer about how they've broken California and federal law. I have proof and witnessed it from a bunch of people inside so I'm not worried about that part.

But what will this do to my career? Now when people google me, they find good stuff like projects and presentations and blogs posts. They won't let me be anonymous and the employer is prominent and popular here so people will find out. What happens if they find this instead? Would it be a deal killer if I applied at your company?

I'm looking for career advice here, not legal advice. I have enough of that.

Tell them to subpoena you - then the choice to testify is not yours any more. You'll have to. But you can tell future employers that you were forced, if you'd like to.

This is smart. Guilty as sin or not, testifying against an employer seems risky for one's career. You want to be able to explain to future employers what happened in a manner that takes personal character assessment out of the equation: somebody broke the law and you got a subpoena.

EDIT: I've worked at some shops that were "cultish" and would look at testifying without a subpoena as not being part of the team. Fucked up, but organizations are often so. You need to do the right thing in the smartest way possible.

> Fucked up, but organizations are often so.

You can choose not to be a part of these organizations.

You can certainly aspire to that. Some companies are really good at hiding their true colors.

Mortgage, kids... Sometimes you need a paycheck.

Right, which is why trying to hide the fact you testified might be a bad idea... If someone won't hire you because you testified against a criminal employer... You probably don't want to work for them. Since, as you said, companies hide their true colors, this way you can know before being hired.

On the other hand, many times hiring managers are just looking for a reason to discard your resume to narrow down the talent pool. Anything negative gets you tossed. They see this. Maybe it's a good sign, maybe it's a bad sign. Either way it's something out of the ordinary that will take more time to evaluate. Better just toss the resume. There's still another stack of 100 candidates to go through...

if they're looking you up on the internet they've gone past finding a reason to chunk your resume.

Doing the right thing is rarely the most convenient option, that's why it's considered notable.

PayPal comes to mind.

This is what they mean by 'your house is not an asset'

Mortgages are not inherently bad. It's what you take the mortgage for is the bad decision.



Having a mortgage for a legal duplex (2 dwellings) and renting the other half out, while you live in one.


Getting a house that's one big sink hole of cash and having more bedrooms/lawn/what have you.

You can be employed to build someone else's dreams. However there are other options available to you that don't involve being a rat.

My reading of “your house is not an asset” is “Robert Kiyosaki apparently failed Introduction to Accounting because he still doesn’t know the definitions of basic accounting terms.” (Except in very rare cases, like when the verdict against you for the neighbor kid drowning in your pool is more than your house will sell for.)

I could have just as easily used "rent" instead of "mortgage". Spare me the political grandstanding.

Not if their former employees won't testify against them?

I think OP's concern is that he'll lose out on even getting an interview. Basically, employers will get his resume, like what they see, google him then decide to pass

I agree with this approach.

If you do decide to testify, I would strongly recommend finding someone completely unrelated to the case who can coach you on how to be a witness. Not what to say, but how to say it. My only experience testifying was in a small criminal trial, but the advice I was given was to keep my answers short, factual and free of emotion.

Some companies will immediately discount you if you testify against a former employer. For those that look closely at the case, though, you do not want to come across as someone testifying because they bear a grudge. A calm, passive, "just the facts" attitude will be the best for your career.

There are two potential downsides to this:

* You may not be called to testify because you've made yourself a hassle, which solves your career problem but implicates you morally.

* Converting your testimony from freely-provided to compelled might have logistical implications. I've been compelled to testify before, and it was a nightmare for me. I'd have been happier if I could have told the trial participants "I'm busy this week, fuck off".

I prefer this over to the "search within yourself" answer.

Perfect, unless they're threatening to prosecute you as well if you don't cooperate.

Otherwise, explain the situation to the prosecutor and detective and ask to be subpoenaed. They'd likely be happy to comply.

There's no prosecutor. It's a civil suit.

My mistake :)

In that case, it's a plaintiff.

Excellent advice. Also ask if they can subpoena you and depose you rather than have you testify in court.

Yup, and they're likely to go the deposition unless he's a "star witness" they rather have for the dog & pony show in court.

This is the best answer here. Takes the blame off of you by mandating your compliance and testimony. Always just tell the truth - no one can fault you for that. If future employers have a problem with you testifying to what you saw, truthfully, then you don't want to work for someone like that anyway.

Will future employers care that he was subpoenaed? Or will they just see the headline?

Any employer large enough to have a legal department understands a subpoena.

Doesn't mean the hiring manager or individual HR drone does, though.

Yep, I did this once, I was also kinda hoping not wanting to testify will signal the lawyers my testimony won't be that great for them, but they didn't give up. Eventually I didn't have to testify because a deal had been reached while I was bored to death waiting for my turn. I did get a nice little compensation check for my wasted half day, ordered by the judge, which was cool.

If you want to testify, asking them to subpoena you seems smart. I can't see how a subpoena could make testifying look worse, and yes, it just might alleviate some employers' concerns. But your first step seems to be deciding, for yourself, if testifying is the right thing to do. What if someone asks, "Did you ask to be subpoenaed?" Most people won't go that deep, but wouldn't you still like to feel comfortable answering that? Do you want to let unproven fears about this somewhat crazy but very diverse industry sway your decision? What will you think when you look back on this in 5 years?

Of course you should never ask to be subpoenaed. You inform the Plaintiff that "I would never would willingly testify about all the illegal things I saw at former employer, you'd have to subpoena me to get me to talk!". You can then answer that question honestly with "No, I told them I'd never talk, but they subpoenaed me and forced me to."

Don't even tell them to. Wait til they do. Otherwise, if you then tell people you were forced, you will be lying.

Why would that be lying? Being forced to do something doesn't imply it was against your will. It simply means you didn't have any other choice.

It belies the fact that OP prompted the lawyers to subpoena him.

If you state "I won't cooperate unless I am ordered to by a court." then you did not prompt them for subpoena. The door is also still open for them to explain why they won't get a court order in which case you might still reconsider.

Could you explain what exactly you see as the difference between "I won't cooperate unless you subpoena me" and "I would like to cooperate, but I don't want this to affect my future job prospects, so please subpoena me"? The OP is prompting the subpoena in either case, as far as I can tell. In either case, the other side can choose whether or not to subpoena him/her. I'm not sure I see any difference between the two...

The first option could be legitimately said by someone who doesn't want to talk or be subpoenaed. It's the difference in occupy style protesters saying "They'll have to come arrest us." and "Please come arrest us.". Though in both scenarios there may be some that get the desired end result, the first option places the responsibility for the end result on the third party.

I think the first OOP said something like "Tell them to subpoena you".


Why were they (singular) subpoenaed, though? It's definitely possible that a prospective future employer would consider a subpoenaed person a person who talks too much.


I think the logic goes that out of everyone at this company -- probably dozens or hundreds since OP says it's well known locally -- OP was the one that the plaintiff knew about and called up. Probably because the OP is a big-mouthed trouble maker and everyone knew it. Or something.

Whereas everyone else at the company were good team-players and kept their mouth shut and head down, so the plaintiff wasn't sure if s/he could count on their testimony or if they even knew anything.

Again, just explaining how someone might fear the logic would go. Not saying anyone does or should actually think like this.

Exactly this.

Good idea.

I'd say there's something even more important operating here for you than career, and that's who do you choose to be? This is really a question it works for you to answer yourself. Consult your own values, search your feelings, is this something that really inspires you? Are you being you authentically if you do testify or not? Whatever you discover, take the risk and act on that, whichever it is. The choice that is you, even if it's risky. This is an identity inflexion point. Get your game face on :)

crypt1d's response on this level is invisible for being flagged, but I think he does raise a serious point: wouldn't OP be admitting that he has broken the law or allowed the law to be broken for a longer period of time? What would be the consequences for him because of that?

Sure that's possible, however, four things: 1) There's not nearly enough information to determine that from the post, 2) the post actually says evidence was collected, which may suggest the person was caretaking justice, 3) in any case, that would be legal advice, which, however constructive, the person has plenty of and 4) if you believe this, and you don't do anything to report that, does that make you culpable of the very thing you're wondering someone else did?

It's interesting to consider, and I don't know. I'm not a legal professional tho I imagine a legal professional would say "there's not enough information."

So on those points alone I feel it's far more likely what you suggest is incorrect. Also I'm inclined to believe that. One reason is it works to choose the benefit of the doubt (not only because it's a legal doctrine), one reason for that being the benefit of the doubt creates harmony amongst people. Search for the good, sometimes it takes effort, and it's worth it. You'll be happier, definitely, if you see the good. On that point, I'd say we're wired to imaginatively perceive the bad, because we're wired for "threat landscape analysis". Tho this disturbs the mind, and maybe isn't always a clarity that works for people. Seeing the good is more unnatural and yet I think also very valuable.

Finally, if a person is asking strangers for advice at a pivotal moment, I'd say they're valuing and respecting others. It also works to respect their vulnerability in reaching out and help. I mean, that's the putative spirit of "Ask HN", right?

Maybe I'm missing something here, and benefit of the doubt goes a long way it seems to me. I'm also finding the HN Guideline, "Don't say anything you wouldn't say to someone's face" really useful in guiding choice on what to say here! :)

It's a civil suit, not a criminal suit, and he's not the one being sued. I think only company officers may be personally sued for company behavior.

Great point. I'm no law expert tho I've heard there's different types of companies ( Delaware c ? ), as a matter of curiosity I wonder if the indemnification changes depending on the type of company.


I say don't do it if it is not your business, if what the person did did not intentionally physically, financially, emotionally destroy anyone.

If you do it, who would you be helping?

There is something I love about the law, a concept named balance of hardship. If the testimony will do damage to this person, while on the other hand only inflicting slight inconveniences for the business, than again don't do it.

EDIT: Now if the person knew the consequences and intentionally wanted to harm, then I guess they knew what they were getting into.


That's rather presumptuous, do you happen to know more than what's in the post?

What? It says nothing about his moral compass, because none of us know the details of what went on. Unless you would like to fill us in?

It works to give the benefit of the doubt and make a helpful contribution. For instance: my helpful contribution to you is did you notice the person said they had evidence? Maybe they'd been safeguarding some evidence, perhaps at some risk, to ensure justice. Maybe even more. We don't know they "did nothing" so assuming that may be incorrect. :)

This is the only answer to his question :)

Except it doesn't answer the actual question...

I agree. The OP is clearly asking for quantifiable responses about career impact and not platitudes.

Since when is having a moral compass a platitude?

It's like the generic advise that everyone already knows. "be yourself!" isn't super helpful when he/she is asking specifically about career impact.

That's a very compact rebuttal! I hope I can one day express myself so efficiently. Impressive.

There was a time when I didn't know how useful "being yourself" was. I don't believe I'm the only one. For instance, people substitute defining themselves by a contrarian viewpoint relative to others, until they work out who they really are. Case in point: the petulant teenager.

And when you don't know you don't know, the questions you ask and actions you take don't display an understanding of that -- so it works to address the non literal if you want to contribute to helping people with those requests.

I hope this helps ! :)

> That's a very compact rebuttal! I hope I can one day express myself so efficiently. Impressive.

Just in case I'm misreading you, this post comes across as quite passive-aggressive and patronizing given your opening line.

No I don't think you're misreading. Maybe you're right and it is patronising and passive aggressive. I'm struggling with a response to this, and I meant every word. The rebuttal is very compact and I admire that. I'm often too verbose, and value clarity.

Anyway I'm trying to say something like:

Not everyone may know that. Being yourself is important, all decisions flow from your values works. Sometimes it works to address the substantive content of a question which may differ from the literal.

If you have any ideas how I can say this in a way that works, thank you :)

Thanks for sharing that my answer doesn't contribute a thing for you! I invite you to create your own answer which does, so we can learn from you :)

Know who you are then you'll know what to do. The question isn't about career impact. That's just like when someone's words are different to their body language. The question is different to the words in it.

Whether or not he feels that testifying would be the right thing to do isn't about career impact.

Looking for advice about what testifying could do to his career image in the long-term from a crowd that likely has relevant experience is about career impact. Explicitly.

Yes, you've correctly comprehended the literal explicit question, that's all there is to it, isn't it?

Except it really isn't about the explicit literal question, it's about the unasked real question.

What happens when you don't know you don't know something, or when asking what would be unacceptable?

A proxy question is substituted, and you hope someone hears what you're really saying.

Also, from a literal sense, I'd say whether you feel the choice is authentic is actually all about career impact. You're choosing to make your career something which isn't you, or something which is. What is the impact on you, and subsequently on your career, for each choice?

Thanks for saying that you're right and that my answer isn't addressing the question. I invite you to create an answer that addresses the question you see, so we can learn from you! :)

I also thought so, and then I heard the real question

I agree with the sentiment but the issue I take with the original answer is that it is that it's completely unactionable. There's no litmus test defined for what "authenticity" to oneself is or how to achieve it, so there's no way for the OP to really take this information and tangibly apply it to their situation. In my personal opinion suggestion without actionability is not particularly useful and only convolutes the decision making process.

Of course it's actionable. Just because an algorithm can't do a cost/benefit analysis and come up with a deterministic solution absolving OP of all responsibility doesn't mean it's not actionable. The solution does however dodge the question as stated. OP asked what the consequences are of testifying, so he can decide whether doing the right thing is worth the risk/consequences. The solution suggested is telling him to say damn the consequences, do what you know is right, whatever that may be. It's life advice, not factual information. It doesn't answer the question he was asking explicitly, it answers the implicit follow up question; once I know the consequences, what do I do?

You sound like a good listener, do you really think the real question is about the risks or is it about personal guidance? Hard to say, right? My feeling is personal guidance, because it just seems so overwhelmingly obvious to me the question is not about what it's stated about. That's just the packaging. Unwrap it -- real q inside! :)

I'd argue that those are simply two separate questions that both pertain to this particular situation.

And you'd have no argument from me there ! :) How would you consider each were you in this situation?

It would depend very heavily on the nature of the charges.

In general, however, I don't think that I would want to work for a company that would hold a bias against me due to my participating in presumably honest testimony when a previous employer was brought to court for whatever reason.

Got it, cool. :)

Porpoise hi :) thanks for the chance to expand on this, I really appreciate that today :) I agree with your point, and it's a goodun: how can you action authenticity if you don't know what it is? and if so it only makes the process inefficient. Totally agree. It's a mess not knowing where you stand, which is precisely the point. It works when we choose from who we are. There is a way to be authentic - I guess we know it without realizing it. You answered what seemed right for you, and that was being authentic. Sometimes a strong conviction is what's needed for a decision, and that's something being sought here. A reliable guide each of us has for our own authenticity is our own values and our own feelings. Without these invaluable guides we're like travellers without a compass, so it works to cultivate them and deploy them much as we can. It's a process and it gets easier. Follow your heart and eventually you'll find what your values are and be able to say them to people. They're our most valuable guides, and they're ours. :)

and yet somehow it does, which seems to be why it works :)

Or hers :)

I'm going to answer from my own experience, which may or may not fit your situation at all (you're kind of vague about it, so there's no way to judge). This is also in part inspired by the comment of humanarity (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9360218)

Several years ago in The Netherlands we had a website blockade of The PirateBay. Most ISPs had to block it, it was stupid, and it did not work at all. The ISPs were challenging it legally. The question got asked: "How effective is this blockade anyway? Can we measure it?".

I did not realise it at the time, but this was somewhat an identity inflexion point for me, and very much changed my career.

As a scientist in computer networking, with some knowledge of Bittorrent, I thought to myself, how hard can it be? I could take some torrents off TPB, record IP addresses passing by and checking which ISP they come from. I finished the bittorrent measurements, wrote a report, and tried to publish it. Only the dean and the faculty lawyer got wind of it, and they were not amused, and saw a risk of getting sued by the entertainment industry.

I challenged them on this, and noted that I would publish this, even without their support. Fortunately I also got full support of my professor, and we did get to publish it. It was used in the court case, and it helped show the ineffectiveness of the website blockade, so it got lifted.

This little weekend project changed my research interests, has made me focus on ethics in computer science research, and especially security research. This has changed much of how I initially planned my career, and it has gotten me to where I am now. I have enjoyed every minute of it, and months later also realised I was not happy with the way my career was going.

I took some risk in doing this, but it was something I believed in. The change was possible because I was a researcher at a university, so that made it somewhat easier.

And now downloads have been made illegal. So you were right in the short term but the longer term effects were actually worse than the blockade was!

Still, kudos for standing up for what you felt was right and not giving in in the face of such pressure, that was pretty brave.

I have less of a problem with downloading being illegal in general. I strongly object to censorship in a democratic society, especially without a good checking mechanism or rules about ending a blockade.

Is your paper available online? I would like to read it.

Like I said, this changed my interests and career. I've written several papers on this, including one analyzing the ethical aspects of violating users' privacy to support a general cause.

All papers are online at staff.fnwi.uva.nl/j.j.vanderham/research/articles.html

A few thoughts based on my experience, which included being subpoenaed by the U.S. Department of Justice while I was at Wired. We filed a motion to quash, which was unsuccessful, so I was forced to take the stand. I posted the docs here: http://mccullagh.org/subpoena/

So, the thoughts:

* I would refuse to testify against my former employer unless I were subpoenaed. Even then, I may move to quash the subpoena (this may be different in your case, of course).

* Being subpoenaed could include depositions and travel and courtroom testimony and rescheduled evidentiary hearings because the judge has a murder trial that's running long -- it could take weeks of your life. This is not an hourlong process. Also, everyone else involved in this process is going to be paid for their time; who pays for yours? Do you even want, ethically speaking, to be paid for your time? Remember the "major law firm" does not work for you and does not have your best interests at heart; their interests may be opposed to yours. To protect yourself you could hire your own attorney, who isn't going to work for free.

* If your former employer has an active fanbase and strongly and convincingly denies your allegations, you could be attacked by name, and your family members dragged into this, online and via social media.

* There are innumerable laws and regulations, some of them rather nuts, and at least one employee at every large company may have innocently violated one of them at some point. Do the laws you believe your ex-employer violated punish behavior that you personally believe should be illegal (malum in se vs. malum prohibitum)? And did management know about and approve these illegal actions, or was it a rogue employee at fault? If the answer to either question is "no," you may want to drop this.

* Now that you've been contacted by a law firm, you could be subpoenaed even if you do not respond and try to drop this.

* If you believe your former employer has institutionally engaged in actions that are illegal and unethical, you have other options beyond testifying. You could write up your experiences and post them publicly, anonymously if necessary.


When the rubber hits the road this is what happens and worse

Let's be realistic: there are many companies that won't hire you after this. The question is, are those the companies that you want to work for? It's a tough choice, of course.

You mention that the company you worked at is popular here on Hacker News. So let's assume we are talking about Apple or Google or perhaps AirBnB. So from now on, when people look up your name, they will see something like "Testified against Apple".

A lot of companies will quietly remove you from consideration, if they see that you have testified. And, sad to say, this might exclude you from a lot of the better paying jobs in the industry.

All the same, you have to ask yourself, how will you feel about yourself if you don't testify? What kind of world do you want to live in? What sort of tech industry do you want to live in?

That's not realistic, that's tinfoil hat paranoid. Nobody makes key hiring decisions on that basis, for statistically significant values of 'nobody'. People with past felony convictions and thriving careers post on HN regularly.

> Let's be realistic: there are many companies that won't hire you after this

Based on? This sounds important enough to warrant real data rather than our guts, whims, direction of the wind, or whatever else.

I think there is definitely risk, but how serious that risk is depends entirely on the context. Very early on in my career, my employer sued me for breach of contract. I was working for an influential contractor but they we incredibly abusive to heir staff (as many contractors often are). I quit after 6 months and found another job (in that order). The job I found happened to be with one of their clients. I had been careful to check my original contract to make sure there wasn't a competition clause that would stop me from doing this and there wasn't. For whatever reason (nothing I said since I barely knew anyone in the company and had worked all 6 months off site), when word got out that I landed a job at one of their clients, virtually every developer jumped ship. It almost drove that influential contractor into the ground -- fortunately for them the government bailed them out. Anyway, they sued me and luckily for me my new employer sent out nazgul-like lawyers their way and the case was dropped.

For many, many years after that, when I was looking for a job in that city I had to put an asterisk on my CV that said "Did not part ways amicably. Please contact me for details" -- everybody in that city knew this employer and many people had heard of the story. Possibly this hurt me for jobs, but of course I never noticed. I worked for other very prominent companies in that city with no problem at all. I have never had difficulty finding good work, so it was fine.

I had one other experience (with another prominent big company) where I was ordered by a very high up executive to add code to the system that was illegal (this was a telephone system, so there are some laws about what you are allowed to do). I refused and they threatened me, but I didn't back down. I think they found someone else to do it behind my back. Again, this could have been quite risky for me, but I refuse to do anything illegal in my job and do not want to work for a people who think I should have caved.

There is always work for good programmers. There are also always things that will prevent you from working with some specific companies, whether that be a bad performance on the day of your interview, bad luck about getting your CV seen by the right people at the right time, a mismatch in personalities or skills, or sometimes situations in your history. It depends on the situation, but it is far from game over to have a mark like that in your history. I no longer put an asterisk on that company on my CV. They even called me up one time to try to recruit me. I had to remind them what happened the last time I worked there. Time heals all... eventually.

> A lot of companies will quietly remove you from consideration

This is probably true. At the same time, some will certainly see it as a good thing and want to hire OP.

That seems very unlikely. If given a choice between two candidates, equal in capabilities, where one has had some amount of public exposure in the manner described, and the other is relatively anonymous, generally the corporation is going to pick the anonymous one. There's no upside to attracting unnecessary, uncontrolled publicity.

At best, they'll ignore it. It won't be a net positive unless the hiring company is some kind of issue-oriented non-profit, or the role itself is issue-oriented.

Personally, there are some issues I would absolutely fall on my sword for. And there are some I certainly wouldn't. It's your own moral compass.

Most people here are for OP testifying. Many people on HN make hiring decisions.

Yes, you can imagine that they would see things differently when actually facing a hiring decision, but my base assumption is that most of them don't.

Before a developer on HN gets the chance to get a say in the decision, an HR filter goes over it. Those people are more risk-averse and this is clearly a company risk.

I've worked at 4 big name tech companies. None of the HR departments could block a hire based on these sort of issues. If the applicant fails to pass a background check for issues like criminal, etc, that's different. But some intangible 'industry risk' has never been a veto power that HR gets. I'm sure there's some company out there that could do this, but I haven't seen it.

If my group wanted to hire this person and HR rejected them for this reason, I would quit.

Given the sorts of candidates that BigCo HR teams tend to let through the process, I'd be pretty surprised if the HR filtration process would actually pick up some random court case, much less act on it.

I would like to see your data for "generally the corporation is going to pick the anonymous one."

Regardless, I personally would favor any candidate who did the right thing in difficult circumstances. I don't hire people who will just go and do whatever I tell them; I've got computers for that. I hire people to help make good things happen. And for that, I need some confidence that when faced with a choice between easy and good, they'll pick good.

More than a decade back I was brought into a company to help them experiment with new ways of working. There was one engineer on my team who thought my ideas were nuts. He argued so much that the management offered to give me somebody more tractable. I stuck with him, though, and as he worked in the new approach, he came to appreciate it. By the time I left, he was an unstoppable advocate for improving my client's engineering practices. Over the next few years he made a huge difference there.

When I look back upon the best people I've worked with, they're all like that. They're professionals, in the sense of having a strong sense of professional and ethical duty. As far as I'm concerned, one person like that is worth any three over-obedient clock-punchers.

There's got to be lots of companies that, as a policy, don't do illegal things. Especially smaller businesses that can't afford to break the law. But larger ones too.

Presumably, those kinds of places just wouldn't care if you testified against a former employer who broke the law. Because it just wouldn't matter.

This to me is a silly idea, as I am confident that if you let me follow any person, or work in any company for a day, I could find laws that they are breaking. Everybody breaks laws, and nobody wants to have the passenger in their car report them for speeding 5mph over the limit.

The OP does not seem to be testifying against a company for under declaring the amount of stationary they have though, unless that involves major law firms, and breaks state and federal law.

In corporate America, companies do not do illegal things, illegal things do companies.

I laughed, though it doesn't quite work, and I don't quite know how to fix it.

In America, companies break the law. In Soviet Russia, the law breaks companies. Or something

In America, company fixes law. In Soviet Russia, company fixes you! "Ahha, but which is better?" asks Confucius.

This the truth of it.

People are going to lie to you and tell you they wouldn't hold it against you. But they would.

Exactly. I think a lot of technical people are extremely naive about how corporate politics work. As we enjoy solving technical puzzles, a similar game is played by ambitious people in management at various levels, and ethics takes a seat at the back of the bus. Oh sure, they will say all the right words (if you can get them to say anything), but their actions are very different from words. And, they seem to be able to identify others who are playing by the same book, who will scratch your back if you scratch theirs.

Sure, OP "should" do the right thing and testify honestly, but in the big scheme of things, it probably will make hardly a lick of difference, and it could very well have extremely negative ramifications for his career.

Do these corporite politics apply to a company the size of, say, segment.io? How about Dropbox? Apple?

I have a hunch that they type of politics you encounter will vary widely based on the size of the company.

Edit: scare quotes were not needed

I would say it is probably present everywhere, but in different forms and to different degrees. My hunch is that it is most present in companies whose core business is not technology (software/hardware), but it's just a hunch.

> You mention that the company you worked at is popular here on Hacker News. So let's assume we are talking about Apple or Google or perhaps AirBnB

Or Uber

And to add to my other comment, I'm willing to bet that large companies that break the law in certain areas sequester those activities away.

They don't put their "regular, probably honest" employees into areas that are lawbreaking.

There's a lot of naive bullshit in here, with people running their mouths about integrity or other nonsense. Remember that the only person prosecuted for waterboarding is the whisteblower John Kiriakou, and he got two and a half years for his trouble.

My point is, you need to look out for number one and not let some law firm looking for (their own) payday get you entangled in their profits, because none of them give a fuck less about you.

So without more clarity on which laws were broken and your role in this (are you the primary witness? Sole witness? One of a dozen?) it's hard to give specific advice.

But just don't let yourself get screwed because some lawyers see a payday they damn well aren't going to share with you.

ps -- if you get a subpoena, get your own lawyer. Maybe even get one now; a lawyer's job is risk management and that's what you need.

ps2 -- Depending on what happened, when people ask, "What kind of person do you want to be" the response might be, "The sort who has a career and can afford indoor living." Here's another whisteblower about mortgage fraud who has destroyed her career [1]

[1] http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-9-billion-witn...

"integrity or other nonsense"

Testify. It demonstrates integrity. Any firm that doesn't want to hire you, especially if the case is clear cut, is not worth working for.

What if he doesn't agree with the law in question? I wouldn't consider it "integrity" to testify against an individual in a small-time drug case, for instance.

I agree with the other posters: if you do want to testify, ask for a subpoena.

This is bad advice. This is living life on hard mode. I wouldn't testify. You don't have anything to gain other than morality points, but you'll have everything real to lose.

Confucius once wrote that 'seeing the right thing and not doing it is cowardly'. This is still true today. But you are right that the life of a coward is easier.

Living a virtuous life is always 'hard mode'; if it were not, would we ever have bothered to identify virtue?

Why stop here then? Why not donate 90% of your income to charity and live in a shanty town?

Sometimes doing the wrong thing (or at least "not the right thing") allows you to do a much bigger right thing in the end.

For example, Bill Gates. We all hated on Microsoft in the 90s. But Gates has become an amazingly generous humanitarian, which he couldn't have done if he donated all his money to charity in the beginning and didn't focus on ruthlessly building his company.


Data point (as requested): I can't imagine factoring trial testimony into a hiring decision, nor can I imagine wasting years of my career I'll never get back at the kind of company that would do that.

I don't think any company here will tell you it'd be a deal breaker. Certainly it will have an impact though. You could testify but still have a plan for controlling what comes up when people search your name. For example, by doing SEO on yourself.

Also, if the law that was broken was actually a major thing then I'd be hard pressed not to testify. It might affect your career, but only with companies that themselves have questionable ethics. You probably don't want to work for them anyway.

I agree with the advice above, and adding on to it, as a founder... If the case is morally and ethically sound then I wouldn't hold it against you, probably applaud you. On the contrary if it's a shakedown of sorts I would be questionable.

As an exercise I would look into the recent lawsuit against VC firm Kleiner Perkins. Search the web for "kpbc lawsuit" and read how people have reacted to that case.

I'd agree with this; if it's something along the lines of "executives were embezzling from the company," I'd consider it a sign of integrity. If it's "Uber isn't complying with taxi regulations!" then I wouldn't want to work with you.

"Uber isn't complying with taxi regulations!"


"XXX isn't complying with YYY regulations!"


"Apple isn't complying with workforce competition regulations!"

So what you're saying is there's a certain level of integrity, and if someone goes over that level of integrity then they are too integer, and you don't want to work with them?

No. What he is saying is that there are some common sense good laws he agrees with and there are some outdated laws that no reasonable person would want to continue to uphold and need to be changed but our grandpas in congress have not gotten around to it yet.

> You could testify but still have a plan for controlling what comes up when people search your name. For example, by doing SEO on yourself.

Hah. Easier said than done. :)

But no, seriously OP, don't rely on this. Whitewashing one-self via attempted SEO is more likely to fail than not fail.

My name is associated with a lawsuit where I testified against a former employee. It's all in the public record, but it's almost impossible to find using Google unless you know a few of the details. Like you, I've been creating a lot of my own content for a while and that's still what dominates the results for my name in Google. From a practical standpoint, unless you get mentioned by name in all the resulting press, you're probably safe.

If you do want to testify, definitely do it. If you are worried about people able to Google you and find that you testified, there is a lot of ways to solve that problem.

You don't even need to go for extensive SEO, as Search Engines may change their algorithms every now and then.

What you can do is, you can create a website for your professional profile where you write blog posts. In one of the blog posts, you can clearly explain your standpoint in your own words. Just link this website to your Linkedin and other social networks. This is important because you have to say in your own words what you want others to see about you, so as to nullify any false idea others may get on googling you.

The recruiter who is going to hire you will surely see the link to the website that YOU have listed and if he really cares about you, that person will read the blog posts. So you definitely have control.

Celebrities all across the world have to deal with stuff which might malign their image, every single day. And you can notice that many celebrities just give a clear statement in their own words and it works out well.

Finally, it comes down to the decision whether you would like to testify or not.

I will add that any such website should probably wait until AFTER the court case is concluded. I don't know that it is dangerous to expound on an issue you're testifying about, but it SEEMS dangerous in that it would open the door for legal trouble against you... IANAL, obviously.

not sure if you should testify. If you do, remember that there are services to clean up your image on google ...

btw, did you try carrers.stackexchange ?

we here seem to be using a lot of opinion and not much fact ...

It really depends on what the lawsuit and testimony are about. If it's a frivolous kind of lawsuit that you disagree with, don't volunteer. If the lawsuit is about something that you support, your ethics should compell you to testify.

Either way, be aware that you can be forced to testify. As long as your testimony is based purely on facts, then I don't see future employers as having issues with it.

As someone who blogs about interviews and legal issues, I am very paranoid about my online footprint. I have talked to many of my friends who are recruiters at tech companies. The recruiters don't dig that deep and the interviewers are discouraged from looking at more than the candidate's LinkedIn profile.

I am still inundated with invitations to interview.

I think you will be fine too.

Edit: Look up the names of people who have sued their employers. http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/ Try googling their names and see if you can link them to the cases. I bet the connections are hard to make.

Testifying isn't as big of a deal as someone who bring a lawsuit against their company. There are a lot of people who testify in lawsuits, and their names never make it to the articles. I wouldn't worry too much about it.

I'm in slightly similar situation in terms of speaking out against a huge firm in the Valley. This firm found out about my east coast start-up and invited us to demo our novel technology. They made promises of buying it for lots of money. Well we flew out there and it was a nightmare, as we were treated like dogs and or worse.

There is a ton of bad behavior going on in this industry and I have pondered whether or not to write about our experience as a warning to all other start-uppers/innovators. I've been going back and forth on whether or not to come out and say who the company is and those who scammed us out of our technology. Though will doing such make me look bad, when the narrative is Silicon Valley companies are no friend to the little guys with no connections!?!

Well in this case you have to speak out.. to atleast signal to the next set of scammers to not mess with you.

Scammers HA this is one of the biggest companies in the world. They have some real jerks working for them!

"major law firm" --> you are not the main character in the movie. So please keep this in mind. As soon as something goes wrong, you will not be first one to be saved from the bad situation. At the same time this is a risk that can lead to both good and bad stuff.

For the career advice;

You will be a lot more known than your projects since this topic will be covered by media as well.

This can be risky too.

The bad:

If law firm loses the case, then you will end up with them as a loser too which will lower your chances getting a similar job like you are working now.

Keep in mind that you former employer also have lawyers to defend themselves, and at the end after the case, they will most probably be still operating.

The good:

You will be known as someone that actually did something about the problem. This can open opportunities for you to work for/as something else than what you are doing now. (they might want to host you on TV, interviews, people would would want to hire you to do some other things, i don't know maybe IT specialist for law firms?)

For both cases, doing what you are doing now MAY not be easier for you after this. (This is my opinion)

Taking or not taking this risk should be ONLY your decision since advantages and disadvantages will mostly affect you.

There are some other things came to my mind that might be worth thinking about as well.

- Do you have a family to take care? (taking risks are easier when you are single)

- Would you be happy doing something else than what you are doing now?

- What are you expecting that will happen when the case is over? (How will you feel about it?)

And one more thing,

Since i am not a lawyer, you actually can find another law firm or a lawyer and ask them about this offer you got. And listen what they are saying about the whole thing.

Good luck!

If it's clear the company has behaved immorally, and that you have no ulterior motive, I don't think anyone would hold it against you.

When people are thinking of hiring you, they aren't thinking whether you'll sue them legitimately. They're afraid of a spurious suit.

I'd be more likely to hire someone who testified all things been equal, it's an incredible indicator of integrity.


The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. (a line from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaqpoeVgr8U , if you've not seen it)

Can you live with yourself ethically if you don't testify?

Are there ways that telling the truth about what you witnessed could actually be an advantage to your career?

Say, for example, that you witnessed sexual harassment and were put on the stand to talk about that. Sure, there may be some shitweasel who won't hire you because you "snitched" - but there may be a woman founder of a healthier and more profitable company (http://qz.com/361602/companies-run-by-women-perform-better/ , just sayin') who takes your having testified as a positive, rather than a negative, signal.

Integrity counts for a lot. If someone doesn't want to hire you because you showed integrity under difficult circumstances, did you really want to work for them in the first place?

Now if you're worried about testifying because you yourself behaved unethically, that's a whole other story.

The kind of company you want to work for is the kind of company that looks positively on the responsible and professional response to difficult situations like this.

Not everyone is willing, interested, or capable of affording themselves the luxury of working for such a place though it can be very rewarding to make those life choices.

In this sort of circumstance the merits of the case might make a difference to future employers and to yourself, whether the legal action and your participation in it seems morally just.

You have to weigh your specific circumstances and the circumstances of the case to make your decision, likely nobody but you can really understand enough to give solid advice.

Your question is a lot trickier than you might think at first. A lot of comments seem to imply that any potential employer that opts to pass on your resume based on you testifying is a company that you wouldn't want to work for. Maybe, but I don't think that's how most HR departments would be considering it.

Their goal is to add value to the company with each hire. They could agree with your ethics and even applaud your speaking out, but still pass on you because your past history as a whistleblower (or at least close enough to one for the term to broadly fit) makes them nervous about what you might do over a difference of opinion even if they believe their company to be ethical and law-abiding. Unless you happen to be a major witness in the case and the defense manages to drag you thoroughly through the mud, it's unlikely that your CV will be tarnished enough for it to be automatically rejected as though you marked down a felony conviction on the application.

It's not completely analogous, but imagine a hypothetical case where Edward Snowden is applying for a position at Google. Were you to poll Google employees, I'd expect strong support for his actions. Hell, his leaks clearly benefited Google by informing them what the NSA was up to and how they were tapping into their internal traffic. But would that support prevent them from worrying about what might happen if he disagreed about certain activities at Google? Snowden already demonstrated a strength of character strong enough to go against the massed might of the United States government of all entities, and for all of their marketshare, Google's own reach pales in comparison. I don't think it'd automatically disqualify Snowden, but it's something that would probably be considered at least in part.

For an employer, it boils down to a simple risk analysis. What's the likelihood that the applicant will find themselves in a similar situation again, and how does that weigh against the value that their work would add to the company? There's really no simple answer here, let alone a guaranteed one. If you're a strong candidate that they'd otherwise want, it'll matter less would be the case if you had little to offer them compared to other candidates.

It's fairly straightforward - follow the legal advice of counsel that represents you.

It's not going to affect your career in the slightest, unless it's a gigantic, newsworthy case and even then, it's unlikely anyone will care about your participation as a witness.

How controversial are the laws broken?

For example, do you think they're good laws? Or do you think these laws are widely broken, at least technically, by all comparable companies because they're unrealistic, and any harm to non-consenting third parties is negligible?

Do only a few of the worst operators, or worst divisions of a larger company, break these laws? Do the laws effectively protect identifiable victims?

This could matter, because with good laws, lawful operators are happy to see transgressing competitors take a fall. And lawful operators need to hire people who help them stay compliant.

But with problematic laws, that are hard to obey and thus widely violated but with no harm to others, people who (cheerfully) become involved in their enforcement can become distrusted. (Did you earnestly try to check the lawbreaking when first observed, or just stockpile evidence for a later legal assault? The 2nd strategy can appear to be scheming or disloyal even if the law is righteous.)

IFF (and it's a big IFF) anyone ever sees your testimony as part of a hiring-evaluation, whether they care will depend on whether the case looks like a shake-down/gotcha/technical-violation, or a remedy-of-great-injustice.

OTOH, I tend to agree with others that this is unlikely to be a big deal. Individual witnesses don't get that much coverage. Unless you're the plaintiff/whistleblower, you're just one of many people called upon to tell the truth. The case could easily be resolved long before your testimony becomes public. Even if it seems at the moment like a giant controversy involving titans of the industry, it'll soon become a footnote, not a headline, about your career, and equally as likely to help (with most major and upstanding employers) as it could hurt.

It would change my thoughts on hiring you. What were the crimes? What were the values you were defending? Are those values I want in my company? How much were you sticking your neck out?

Your answers and justifications could swing the pedlndulum either way. I would want to know that you believed you did the right thing, and that you took the time to really question what the right thing was.

i was a named plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against google in 2009. that didn't stop them from contacting me repeatedly to try and hire me, and i did work for google for a bit in 2013.

i wouldn't worry about it.

This is definitely not legal advice, just some personal experience/thoughts.

You're thinking only about your career? How about the mental and emotional toll that being involved in a court case can take? Don't doubt that there is one. These are all costs to you.

This may be too simplistic and quite conservative, but if you are not personally involved in the legal case, nor the actions that were taken which were illegal, then it is the company's problem and not your own. I like to hope the legal system was designed to get to the bottom of the issue, which has already been identified.

From a career or personal perspective, it might be a better idea to stay out of it unless you must be involved, either because it is needed to serve justice or because it is required because you are subpoenaed. Why not let the court decide if that is needed? One thing I know for sure is, if one side or the other needs/wants you bad enough, you will get dragged into it.

On the other side, if you don't need to be involved, it is probably safer to stay on the sideline. Especially if there is any chance that you aren't sure about the legality of the issues involved. Why take the unnecessary risk and burden to yourself? The company probably wouldn't do that for you.

As for your career question - I think most reasonable employers may ask, but would realize that the actions of a corporation do not equal those of an individual working at that corporation. I do think your career can survive being associated with such an entity, even if you have to be involved.

Worst case, change the entry on your resume to make the company name anonymous when applying for jobs... instead of XYZ, Corp, just say "A Major Consumer Technology Firm", etc. I have seen folks do that and it is not totally unacceptable.

Good luck with your decision.

HN tends to be populated by people who either are or claim to be very successful, and are very confident they will always have well-paid work.

But many other people have to pay their bills and exist in a hiring environment which is somewhat hostile - maybe they can't move to the Bay Area, they are not very outgoing and networked, rumors have been spread about them, they are old - this industry is punishingly picky and hiring managers like nothing better than filtering you out. So, bottom line, a lot of us don't have leverage and do have to play stupid corporate games (and work at shitty and occasionally unethical employers) on pain of losing our livelihoods. It's all fun and games until you have to stop writing code and go work at Wal-mart.

If this issue is of Schindler's List magnitude, I guess you have to bite the bullet, but if all you're doing is making a law firm happy by being a +1 that might not be worth the risk of self-destruction.

This article gives some ethical analyses:


It depends if you plan on working in big Companies or small to medium size Companies/startups.

Large public Companies (assuming we are talking about a case against a public Company) may be reluctant to have you because HR might freak out. HR is all about damage control and compliance. But startups to medium sized Companies can be talked into it, and if you work is valued and appreciated, you should be fine. As a founder or executive of several Companies from 1 to 80 people here in California, I would not take this against you.

As a side note, I would also advise you to do some SEO on yourself as was said by porter. It's unfortunate, but worth it.

So if the law firm has contacted you then it makes things a bit clearer. Either you'll testify willingly or, if they feel your testimony is important enough, they will subpoena you to appear and you'll testify anyway. (or serve time in jail for contempt, which is not advised)

So it really isn't a choice of "do I or don't I" it is really about the choice you made when asked. The actual choice here may be whether or not you need representation.

I'll give the consultant answer- it depends. There are still a surprising number of employers who don't do a internet search on prospective employees, but assuming you apply to one that does, testimony would only have a negative effect if they a) found the testimony and b) thought you to be risk because of it.

As others have said a) is pretty easy to avoid if you aren't the star witness in a major trial and you have any sort of web presence (or you have the same name as someone famous.) Assuming a potential employer did hear about the trial, they are going to care a lot more if your testimony is related to something they MIGHT be doing\accused of doing. If you are being asked to testify that your ex-employer over worked employees or allowed a culture of harassment to exist, then sadly the HR person or hiring manager may worry that you'd make an accusation against them because those conditions are sadly pervasive and\or subjective. If on the other hand you are testifying that the ex employer is clubbing baby seals to make fancy watch bands, then they are much less likely to care because they know they aren't also clubbing baby seals (or if they are, you should be happy they pass on you.)

On a personal level, I'd probably ask them to get a subpoena and testify. I'm reading between the lines, but it sounds like you think it's the right thing to do. If you really believe that then it's worth doing, even if it might have s marginal effect on your some job applications down the line. Tech is big, good engineers are scarce, and most jobs will come from your personal network anyways, and the small downside is worth sleeping well at night.

If you feel the law that was broken should be upheld then go ahead and testify. If I were considering hiring you I'd probably look at your decision to testify as a positive one unless I strongly disagreed with the law.

While I don't think we should selectively obey laws, there are certainly some that are very stupid and I'd question the judgment of someone who went to great lengths to punish a firm for violating one.

Most companys CEOs have a "My Tribe" versus the rest of the world attitude, with the law beeing defined by themselves. They will see you as a potential traitor no matter what if you testify. Good or bad arguments for or against that dont factor into that view on the world.

You certainly can try to fit into that perspective, but those vasalls and slaves turn productive companys into king-courts that go nowhere. Better start sooner then later to openly not be one of those. So it actually depends on the crime comitted. If the crime in question was part of such a court and the shenanigans those produce. Hit it. And write it in your resume. Dont hide it. Show it and the reason why you did it. And would do it again. Make clear, that kings without cloths have a tendency to loose there head throughout history and that speeding up the fall of unmerited authority is a virtue.

Also, it wont be found out over the web, but via personal contacts. You and everbody meets twice in live, and they will chat. So if you do testify- tell it right now.

It will hurt your career, sure some companies will be enlightened and not hold it against you but some will. That means less places will hire you, meaning less prospects. Are those places you would want to work otherwise? Maybe.

That doesn't mean don't testify though, what's more important to you, your career or getting the company punished for what it did?

I suggest that you don't testify for the reasons you've mentioned. Even a good company with good people will have a harder time hiring you. When you hire someone and you have to choose between different people, then a normal HR manager will choose the one that is less noisy. They are not looking for someone who does the right thing, but someone who will provide more value to the company than trouble.

The only thing you haven't mentioned that might be relevant is if your silence might hurt someone. Then you have to weight own disadvantage against their disadvantage. Although I'd probably do the moral choice, I don't think it's the smarter one. In real life moral decisions often don't pay off, not even for the people you try to protect.

Also if you have spouse or other people who depend on you (e.g., brothers/sisters) discuss with these people and make a decision together. Your decision will also influence their life.

I think it depends a lot on what the actual infraction is.

If it's something that most people in your industry actually think is bad, go for it.

Then again, there are now so many and so broad regulations that any business will violate some on a daily basis. I would like to work with people who don't go to the legal system whenever they can.

I don't wanna sound evil, but why not something else? You could let them know you've got proof and try to get into a deal.

After that, even if you left the company, they wouldn't get sued or have any media attention. You wouldn't be known as 'the whistleblower' and probably get a decent compensation.

I can't tell you what you should do. I can say for myself, what matters the most to me is what looks back at me in the mirror. If I felt my former employer had done something for which they should be held accountable, I would testify. I would not worry about future employers who would discard my resume over my choice...I would instead welcome the benefit of their filtering action, which would lead me away from companies that are intent on breaking the law, leaving only companies that are lawful and ethical as potential employers. Companies who would view my actions as those of someone with integrity. Because the bottom line, the only company who would pass someone over for something like this is one that operates on legally shaky grounds to begin with.

The fearful are caught as often as the bold.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

It is wonderful how much time good people spend fighting the devil. If they would only expend the same amount of energy loving their fellow men, the devil would die in his own tracks of ennui.

The above are all three quotes from Helen Keller.

I will suggest that you do whatever it is you believe to be ethical. Well paid careers are often careers in which character and trustworthiness are important. It is part of why you get paid: They can trust you with the keys to the thing or the personal data on people or whatever. If a law firm knew to contact you, then it isn't a secret that you have insider info. If you do the unethical thing, people learn of that.

If you want some "plausible deniability," sure, tell them to subpoena you. But reputation matters immensely and when something like this comes into your life, the question is not whether or not you can avoid the consequences. There will almost certainly be consequences. There will almost certainly be a price to pay and, whatever you choose, the price may well be painful. When all is said and done, do what you believe to be the ethical thing. It will do the most to protect your employability. So avoiding the consequences should not enter your mind. The choice here is which set of consequences do you prefer?

There is also no price you can place on a clear conscience. I like being able to sleep well at night. I have a medical condition, so a good night's sleep is something I have fought hard for. I would hate to lose my good sleep habits over a guilty conscience. Having lived my entire life suffering from a serious medical condition, I believe firmly that bars do not a prison make. The prison of our own body or our own mind is often far worse than anything anyone else can do to us.

Best of luck with both your decision and the path forward.

You are what defines your career, not the other way around. There are a lot of companies out there, some will see testifying as good, some bad. If your choice is true to yourself, and the company you want to work for really doesn't like that, I'd say eventually you will not go along well with that company and this acts as a "fail fast" filter.

Finding a good career path may take quite some time, but working for the wrong company can cost magnitudes of more time.

For most HN readers, including me, the answer is an obvious "testify", because we see it as a big plus. Do you want to work for people who see it as the right thing to do, or people who avoid it?

Edit: OP, if you read what I wrote, you will see why you shouldn't use the number of upvotes to make your decision: the point is precisely that a 'popular' choice can quickly turn south. At this point, all these upvotes will have disappeared and you will be alone facing the consequences.


If they did something so awful that it's keeping you awake at night, do it.

Otherwise, don't.


Wait... are you still reading?



Okay, darn it...

If you STILL want to do it:

Career-wise, make sure it's something which is universally seen as awful AND will probably continue to be seen as such. If the wind changes direction, there's still going to be a record about what you've done. Things seen as obviously right can be seen as obviously wrong in the time of a single decade. When this happens, the 'major law firm' and all those who did encourage you to do it will magically vanish.

> Would it be a deal killer if I applied at your company?"

Depends on what and why you did it.

If you testify only because someone broke the law, from my point of view as a hypothetical employer, you are a huge liability. Most people break the law multiple times a day and don't even know it. I honestly don't want people around me who are ready to report me just 'because I broke the law'.

If you've done it for moral reasons, even if I agree with you, I might have to refuse to hire you because it might gives a bad image to my business.

Now, what if I agree with you and you did something which is currently politically correct. Is there any advantages? Not really... I still don't know if you are good at your job; I'll have to evaluate you the same as everybody else.

In short, there's no advantages (employer/employee-wise) to doing it. Only potential downsides.

It's like behind an asshole on a social network. It might gives your friend a few giggles, but it can hurt you years down the line.

I'm genuinely curious about the downvotes. Which part of what I said didn't you like?

Is it because you think he should testify, and you just downvote the opposed side?

Is it because you don't agree with my hypothetical employer?

Is it because you don't like the distinction between morality and law?

It would be much more helpful to say what you don't agree with.

I've been watching the votes from the start and the ones against testifying get downvoted quite often. If I had to guess, it is probably because those voters refuse to believe that they will someday have considerations other than their "ethics" or "integrity".


The sad thing about this is that OP specifically asked for career advice, not an open "should I / would you do it".

Please resist the temptation to post about being downvoted, even though having a comment downvoted is frustrating. (It is for all of us.)


I would not. Even firms that are not doing anything blatantly illegal steer clear from whistleblowers and the like. A recruiter that googles you and finds you testifying against a former employer may just pass on your resume.

In terms of career, there is no possible upside to this; I don't think anyone is more likely to hire you because of this. And, there are plenty of downsides.

What's good for society may not always be good for the individual.

Why wound't an employer want to hire someone who is honest and complies with the law?

Recruiters are a pretty terrible way to get a job, though.

Do what you think is the right thing to do. Any firm that doesn't hire you based on your decision is saving you the frustration of working with a group that doesn't match your ethics.

Do you think you can go your whole career making everyone like what you do?

If not, do what you think is right. You'll be your best critic and fan, pay attention to what's good for you.

Separately, if you want to spend your life working for soulless corporations, then the publicity could hurt you.

If you want to work for good people that understand real issues, they'll appreciate what you do if you handle yourself honorably.

This reminds me of John Boyd's famous question: "Do you want to be somebody or do you want to do something?"

Any action you take causes some reaction somewhere out there, be it now, or later; sometimes you know but other times you have no idea where that somewhere is or will be. Whatever you decide think strategically and long term.

It's highly admirable to care about the world, but sometimes it turns out the world will not care about you.

Listen to all the opinions/advice you can get, adjust your beliefs in the light of this new information, then make a decision you'll be most conformable with.

Sometimes you have to have the courage to care anyway, or nothing will change. When you look back, history is full of people giving a shit against all odds.

If you have the information and the law firm knows this, and you resist voluntary testimony, both your testimony and the evidence in your position can be subpoenaed, at which point you will legally be compelled to provide the testimony and evidence. I've heard of this happening to people who didn't want to testify, and also of people preferring to be subpoenaed so that they could honestly say to others that they testified only because compelled.

What do you gain from testifying? Probably nothing. So why would you do it for free?

Maybe I grew up listening to too much rap music, but personally I would stay on the sidelines.

Career advice- it's a wash I don't see how it realistically would hurt you or benefit you much either.

However, don't get pressured into doing something you're not comfortable doing. If you morally want to do something, but only feel comfortable doing it anonymously just stick to that. And if the law firm doesn't see any benefit from your anonymous reporting then I would recommend to just leave it at that.

My name is associated with a lawsuit where I testified against a former employee. It's all in the public record, and if you try really hard, you can find all about it on Google. But it would take you a lot of work. Unless you get mentioned by name in all the associated press, you're probably safe, especially given your projects and presentations and blogs posts.

While the "tell them to subpoena you" answer is obviously more correct than the "do the authentic thing" one, I want to point out that by making certain sacrifices (you probably shouldn't make any babies if you're going this route) it's entirely possible to have a career where you simply make the ethical decision every step of the way.

I would recommend that you engage a good lawyer, one with significant litigation experience and an understanding of the issues at hand, to represent you and your interests, which are different and distinct from either of the parties. Assuming that you are a fact witness and that your testimony is confined to facts, your good name and reputation will not be sullied.

People are giving surprising answers here. But it is really quite simple:

- do you think the company did something wrong?

- do you want to help discourage other companies from doing the same thing in the future?

If the answer is yes to both, then you should testify.

The truth is, no one here has a crystal ball that will tell them the impact of testifying on your future. In life, you sometimes have to just go with what you think it right.

Yes. You don't know so choose on your values. It's a fallacy to judge choices by their results anyway. You sound like a prosecutor, capable of convincing people to testify! :)

It would not be a deal killer if I saw this when I Googled your name while researching your background. Depending on the nature of the case, I might even bring it up in an in-person interview as interesting smalltalk, as it definitely sounds like it could be a good story.


As an employeer, the kind of lawsuits that give me pause would be from a sanctamonious employee out to make a quick buck.

This lawsuit look like the testamony is coming from a principaled employee: the kind of employee that I would be proud to work with that would call me to better behaviour.

I've worked for a number of employers that violated state and federal laws, in fact one asked me to lie on in a federal court on their behalf.

Ive always kept my mouth shut for the same reasons... most employers are doing something wrong, and no one likes a tattletail.

That's your chance to do something that is worth for the world. IMHO you should not let it pass. Good recruteirs will not judge you by that. If they do, they aren't good recruiters. And good companies should have good recruiters.

Seems like any company you would potentially work for that is turned off by the fact you testified against a former employer who was BREAKING THE LAW...probably isn't the type of place you should be working. Right?

Don't be afraid, I would always hold someone with ethics above a peer of comparable ability and background. Testifying against someone who has done wrong would only prove an ethical standing.

Tell the law firm to f*%k off. Attorneys are vultures and just care about themselves (spent most my life working with them). You are just toilet paper to them. What is the benefit of testifying?

I wouldn't want to work anywhere that wouldn't hire someone for testifying against wrongdoing. Ideally we'd be more concerned that you weren't a whistleblower.

I think most companies are more worried about hiring an employee of POOR integrity. Such a person is more likely to shirk work and be a liability. You should definitely testify.

Why not offset?

Instead of doing the world a service by testifying, you could do the world a service by not buying t-shirts made in sweatshops, or something like that.

The moralising in this thread is too much.

If you testify, a company that is good and wants good people to work there might see you in a more positive light. This can have positive external effects.

Imagine that there are thousands of people in the same situation as you. Do you want all of them to testify or to keep their mouths closed?

I would say if you apply for big companies, it probably doesn't matter. The people who hire you are also employee. But startup may hold that against you, if they aren't very good companies. Also what you can do is to write an article about why you choose to testify, to huffpost blog or similar blogs (it is actually quite easy to write a blog there, especially with your story), then when people search, they hear the real story about you, not just a media coverage of the case.

If you agree with the law, testify. If you do not agree with the law keep your mouth shut. Anything else lacks integrity.

It would not affect my decision to hire you. In fact, I'd probably admire you more for doing the right thing.

First off: You already have google results, this one will probably not be on the first page, and you can easily push it down further.

Secondly: A good employer is interested in your current abilities to fulfil the role they need, and will ignore unrelated information.

I've worried about having anti-commercial anti-proprietary statements on my google results, but I've never had a problem getting job offers from proprietary software companies.

You don't need career advice, you need to degauss your moral compass.

I really respect you, but that's spoken by a person relatively unlikely to need to convince someone else to hire him again.

Come on. I just want to see a reply from ONE person on HN (presumably working as a programmer or related job) who had to testify against an employer in the US and then faced significant difficulties in getting a job.


> With friends like you, who needs enemies.

Personal attacks are not allowed on Hacker News.

If you don't care about the crime, don't do it.

Would you mind specifying what was the law being broken?

Try to imagine how you would think about this if you were 80 years old. Don't do something you fear you would regret sometime later. Be sure about yourself and only about yourself.

What's the personal benefit for you, if you do testify? It sounds like they are asking you to go out on a limb, without compensating you.

FWIW, I wouldn't hold it against a prospective employee if they testified that their former employer did something illegal.

Is it Gawker? Please be Gawker.

If it's a deal killer for a company, then that company may have a precedent of acting illegally or immorally.

I'd say the only reason you shouldn't is if you disagree with the law. Otherwise, I'd testify.

Do you want to be a free person or the indirectly indentured slave of a small group of large organisations?

So you want to work for companies that won't hire you because you speak up when you witness injustice?

Testifying in such a case certainly wouldn't be a negative for being hired into my group.

Do the right thing.

Do what's right for others and it'll be right for you too.

What is the moral thing to do?

When the end comes and you look back on your life, how will reflect on the choices you made?

I would testify.

Consider that the law firm can subpoena you. If the choose to do that you would have no choice but to testify - or rather, you could be prosecuted if you choose not to.

Presumably in California USA you can be forced to take the stand as witness but not compelled to bear testimony or indeed speak? (eg http://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-rights/fifth-amendment-... penultimate heading).

I don't get it. What's wrong with my question?

The fifth amendment right against self-incrimination only applies to criminal matters, not civil matters. There is a lot about employment law, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act that is civil and not criminal.

Also it is the right against SELF incrimination. One can be compelled to incriminate others.

IANAL - but I don't think your first paragraph is accurate.

I agree completely with your second paragraph.

Let's say Sally is suing Joe for wrecking her car. I was driving Joe's car, and I fled the scene of the accident.

I'm subpoenaed in the civil matter to come testify for Sally to say what Joe did.

I'm pretty sure that you can tell the judge you refuse to answer due to 5th amendment right.

Source: I did this once in a federal civil suit (no vehicles involved)

Surely as late2part's sibling post sort of suggests without hearing your testimony the judge can't determine whether it's likely to incriminate you or not - you're called as witness to an RTA that you weren't involved in but you were running drugs at the time? Or you're called on a employment law issue but you should have been under a non-compete [which of course may not be legal, but you don't know that and you can't disclose it without potentially incriminating yourself]? Or ...

What's the measure for "self incrimination". For example if I'm called as a witness for a relatively minor offence (non-violent theft say) but it will mean giving evidence that I was cheating on my spouse; that's not criminal but it's potentially going to ruin my life, why would I testify?

What about the converse, there's almost always something you could decide was unlawful, you were speeding, you dropped litter, you jaywalked, you illegally parked - if your testimony might reveal such things then can you claim the fifth?

In a moment I'm going to submit this as an HN story:

"Is There a Cause for Which You Would Give Your Life?" http://www.warplife.com/mdc/essays/mental-illness/give-your-...

For me, now, there are lots of such causes. But then I am fifty-one years old, I have witnessed a great deal of evil in the world and so would welcome the opportunity to make right that which is wrong.

When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white person, she lost her job as a seamstress. No doubt she found it difficult to find work after that.

But do you blame everyone else who didn't refuse?

That's a tough question.

Some would have had a lot more to lose than she did; say someone who had an outstanding arrest warrant, someone who owed a lot of money, no I would not blame them.

do you have FU money in the bank? financially can you retire now? if not, I think its wiser to say no. Caveat if this is a case of something truly evil that was done. If its more of a protocol/regulatory/victimless kind of law, then I'd argue its not worth hurting yourself financially over. Again, unless you already have FU money in the bank.

There is no single perfect advice anyone can give. This is my off-the-cuff sense for what my own thought process would be.

As someone who is currently getting screwed over for helping someone out, by the person I helped out, because the thing I let him do was done improperly and it has caused ~$50K in damages I will likely end up footing, I agree 100% (I'm not going to provide details here just take it as given that I did someone a solid and they #$%^ed me hard in return, and yes, I have a lawyer, that's factored into the $50K).

IMO in our bizarre litigation-driven society, no good comes out of putting yourself out there unless you 100% CYA which is the mistake I made here. CYA or you'll (probably) be sorry.

I wouldn't testify because there is nothing for me to gain monetarily.

avoid it



...because of your career? Are you working in IT or the Mafia?

Snitches get stitches.

What benefit are you getting for testifying? Is it enough to warrant the possible negatives?

It's simple: do the positives outweigh the negatives?

Don't do it. What's the upside for you? What's the downside?

Are you going to get remunerated enough for testifying? the law firm is probably as corrupt as your employer.

Usually it's only ethical to pay expert witnesses. At most maybe try to get some free suits and first-rate hotel rooms out of it :) ... but if you're judged to be a whistle-blower you do get paid for winning.

You getting paid? If not, then do not testify.

Everything has a price, and if you aren't getting paid, someone else is.


Not that I disagree with your suggestion, but the testimony is the thing that helps determine guilt (or innocence, for that matter).

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