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Sexual harassment in the workplace can include any unwelcome sexual advances, comments, requests for sexual favors, touching, groping, or even rape. If you are forced to deal with sexual harassment in a New York City workplace, you may be wondering about the stages of a sexual harassment lawsuit. Following are Frequently Asked Questions about the stages of a lawsuit. Our New York City sexual harassment lawyers can provide further advice that is tailored to your situation.
Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?
No, you do not have to file a lawsuit if you don’t want to. Many victims of sexual harassment are afraid. They want to report the harassment but do not necessarily want to file a lawsuit. At the employment law firm of Philips & Associates, we prepare a complaint of discrimination and initially report the sexual harassment to the employer. We may even report the harassment to the harasser themselves and let them know you are represented by counsel. This usually prevents any further sexual harassment and may also prevent retaliation. If you are fired or demoted after the report of sexual harassment you will have an additional claim for retaliation.
After reporting the harassment to the employer, we give them time to investigate the allegations. We will then attempt to negotiate a settlement. This can be accomplished on the phone, through meetings and/or through a private mediation. A private mediation is an opportunity to resolve the claim, prior to filing a lawsuit A mediation is a proceeding conducted by a mediator, who is a neutral third party who can look at the situation with an unbiased eye and see the weaknesses and the strengths of the case. There are situations in which it is possible to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit at mediation. If the mediation fails, you can decide whether or not you want to proceed with filing a lawsuit. A mediation can occur before filing a lawsuit or after you file the lawsuit.
How Do I Initiate a Lawsuit for Sexual Harassment?
If you are a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, you should report the harassment directly to the employer in writing to give it the chance to fix the situation. An employment law attorney can help you with prepare a report of sexual harassment, or you can report it yourself. It’s important to detail the specific acts of harassment and when they happened. If the employer does not respond appropriately, you can proceed to the next step.
Many sexual harassment lawsuits begin by the filing of a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the New York Division of Human Rights, or the New York City Commission on Human Rights. You may file a charge with the EEOC if your employer has 15 or more employees. However, you need to do this within 300 days of the last discriminatory or harassing act. In some cases, the EEOC will ask the employer and you to participate in mediation or investigate your charge.
If there are less than 15 employees you can file with the New York Division of Human Rights, or the New York City Commission on Human Rights. However filing with theses agencies is not mandatory. You do have the option of filing immediately in State court.
It is wise to consult with an employment attorney even before filing a charge with the EEOC, the Division of Human Rights, or the Commission. There are different remedies available, and in some cases, proceeding under state or local laws may be a better choice. How you report the matter to these agencies could affect the trajectory of your lawsuit, making it important to get off to a good start by retaining an attorney with employment law experience.
What Are the Stages of a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit?
After you file your lawsuit, there may be motions filed by the employer to get the case dismissed on technical or procedural grounds. Additionally, the court will require the parties to exchange what is known as discovery. Discovery takes several different forms. Among them are written discovery, such as interrogatories, and depositions. In the deposition, one side will ask a witness questions designed to lead to admissible evidence on the issue of sexual harassment. For example, your attorney might depose the person whom you have accused of sexually harassing you, as well as supervisors and managers of the company who have information about the harassment and the steps that the company took to protect you once it received notice. In some cases, the parties go to mediation to see whether the case can be settled using the available information.
In other cases, the employer waits until after discovery is conducted to bring a summary judgment motion or another dispositive motion to try to get the case dismissed without a trial. These motions are brought on the basis that the defendant believes that the plaintiff does not have sufficient evidence to win at trial, or the plaintiff's case has no factual questions and should be determined as a matter of law. Some defendants bring this type of motion regardless of how strong the plaintiff's case is. The judge reviews briefs and all of the submitted evidence to try to determine whether the plaintiff should be able to present the case to a jury. This process can take several months. However, the standard for evaluating the motion varies depending on whether your sexual harassment claim is brought under Title VII, the New York State Human Rights Law, or the New York City Human Rights Law.
Do All Cases Go to Trial
No. A majority of lawsuits can be resolved through mediation or direct negotiation. Some cases are dismissed or summarily adjudicated. Other lawsuits are not resolved by mediation or a dispositive motion, and these are the cases that proceed to trial. However, you can resolve and settle a sexual harassment lawsuit at any time, whether it be before litigation, during litigation or up to and including the trial stage.
At trial, a jury will determine whether you were sexually harassed and which damages you can recover. It is critical to retain an employment law firm with jury trial experience if you have been subjected to sexual harassment.
After a trial, there may be a basis to appeal the verdict if you are not satisfied with it.
Seek Insights From a Resourceful New York City Empolyment
At Phillips & Associates, we may be able to help you if you are curious about the stages of a sexual harassment lawsuit in New York City. We fight employment discrimination and harassment in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, Nassau and Suffolk Counties as well as Westchester County and New Jersey. Contact us at (866) 229-9441 or through our online form.