Defaults Judgments and How to Get One in Your New York Sexual Harassment Case

As most people — lawyers and non-lawyers alike — know, most civil lawsuits start with a complaint, followed by a response from the defense, after which comes pre-trial discovery and motions, possible settlement negotiations, and if the case is still unresolved a trial. Sometimes, though, cases don’t follow that usual path. An experienced New York City sexual harassment lawyer can help your hostile work environment case in lots of ways, especially when your case doesn’t follow the typical pattern listed above.

For example, what do you do when you file your sexual harassment complaint and the defense responds by doing… nothing?

That was the scenario facing B.M., a woman working in the investments and finance business. She was a successful hedge fund analyst and consultant who, in 2021, took a position in investor relations with a Lower Manhattan-based firm.

The managing partner at the firm allegedly began sexually harassing B.M. almost from the start. During her second meeting with the managing partner, the man demanded that the woman select one of the meeting attendees whom she’d consider “cute,” and then explain why that man was attractive, according to the complaint. Later, he allegedly began to “badger” B.M. about her romantic life.

Additionally, the partner allegedly insisted that B.M. work from his apartment and, while she was there, he frequently suggested that she use the pool at his apartment complex. B.M. always rejected these suggestions, according to the complaint.

According to the lawsuit, by late spring, with B.M. still having spurned the partner’s overtures, the man’s attitude changed dramatically. On June 1, B.M.’s probationary period ended. One week later, the employer fired the woman, purportedly due to the “aggressive, sometimes hostile attitude towards Senior Management” she exhibited. On that basis, the woman sued, alleging sexual harassment, a hostile work environment, and retaliation in violation of the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law.

After filing suit becomes necessary, there are a series of required steps that follow. These steps, to the average layperson, may seem minute, technical, onerous, and overwhelming, but to an experienced New York City litigation attorney, are virtually routine.

There’s the filing of the complaint, which must properly lay out the basis for your case, the claims upon which you’re seeking relief, and the relief for which you’re asking. After that, you have to properly serve notice of the complaint on the all people and entities you’re suing. B.M.’s legal team did all that.

Then… nothing. The employer didn’t file any kind of responsive pleading, and neither did the partner. If you’re not familiar with the system, a scenario like this might leave you wondering… now what?

Using the Default Process When the Defendants You Sued Don’t Answer

The answer is something called a “default,” and B.M.’s lawyers made a motion for default judgment in early October, which the trial court granted earlier this month. In that motion, you have to provide the court with proof that you properly filed your complaint and that you properly served all the defendants, as well as “proof of the facts constituting the claim, and proof of the defaulting party’s default in answering or appearing.”

When you’re using an LLC (which B.M.’s employer was,) you typically can serve any of a variety of people, including members of the LLC, managers of the LLC, agents “appointed to receive” documents such as court papers, or “any other person designated to receive” documents like court papers. In B.M.’s case, her paperwork indicated that she properly served a “managing agent” of the LLC.

In terms of proof of the facts, there are two ways to establish this requirement: either an affidavit from someone “with personal knowledge of the facts surrounding the claim” or a “complaint verified by a person with actual knowledge of the facts surrounding the claim.” B.M. provided an affidavit in which she personally testified to the harassment, hostile work environment, and retaliation she allegedly endured.

That satisfied all the requirements for the issuance of a default judgment in the employee’s favor, giving B.M. an important leg up in obtaining relief through her civil suit.

A popular series of insurance commercials says of the insurer that “we know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.” An experienced attorney can be a lot like that. Whatever wrinkle your case encounters, chances are they have seen it (or something close to it) before, so they know how to respond correctly. The knowledgeable New York sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates are to provide our sexual harassment and employment discrimination clients exactly that kind of knowledge-based, experience-driver, and effective representation. To find out more, contact us online or at (866) 229-9441 to set up a free and confidential consultation today.

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