Andrew Campbell

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How Important Are Evidence And Witnesses In Sexual Harassment Claims?

If you don’t have written evidence of retaliation, it can be difficult to prove this factor in a sexual harassment claim. However, this is when the EEOC comes into play. They will conduct an investigation, and they have the power to talk to former employees that may have quit before due to similar harassment, so they can be your best witnesses. The employees that you work with can be good witnesses too if they are not subject to threats as well.

The best types of witnesses are those who worked there previously, interacted with the wrongdoer, were similarly harassed and have no barrier to testifying. If you have evidence in writing from emails or text messages, or the harasser left you a message on your phone, technology becomes your witness because it’s a matter of simply showing the evidence and proving that it’s authentic.

Do You Recommend That Your Clients Keep A Journal Detailing Specific Events Of Harassment?

Yes. Documenting the claim is very important. That’s actually important for a number of reasons. First, documenting the harassment will allow you to demonstrate to a jury that, “I wrote this information down. I took contemporaneous notes, and they’re reliable.” You can also use them when you testify to refresh your memory.

It’s also important, after you file the case to keep records of all attempts to get a new job, completing applications, etc. You have a duty to lessen the damages that you suffered and you have to keep proof of that. Third, if you quit a job because the work environment became so hostile that it altered the terms and conditions of your employment, you do want to make a record of why you left that job.

How Long Do Sexual Harassment Claims Typically Take To Be Resolved?

There are two distinct parts when it comes to sexual harassment cases. Number one, there is the case with the EEOC, which could take anywhere from a few months to a year for it to go through the process. On rare occasions the EEOC will take the case as a type of class action where there is so much harm and wrongdoing going on that they will gather a group of employees and sue on behalf of them in court. In most cases, however, the EEOC will take the case and investigate it over several months.

If the case cannot be resolved by mediation or conciliation, then the EEOC will issue a Right to Sue letter. This gives the employee 90 days to file a lawsuit. You can sue in federal or state court.

It’s preferable to sue in federal court because judges tend to be more sympathetic, and the law tends to be more sympathetic towards employees. A federal lawsuit could take a couple of years, depending upon the employer and their availability, as well as the amount of evidence you have. The more money you’re seeking, the longer it’s going to take.

Do Most Sexual Harassment Claims Settle Out Of Court Or Are They Litigated?

The numbers from the EEOC are 80 to 85% of all cases filed with the EEOC settle out of court, so only 15 to 20% actually be filed in a court. Not all claims or charges will have merit, so some of those claims won’t be filed for one reason or another, such as the employee drops the case, loses interest or even dies. Generally-speaking, a relatively small number of claims actually have to be litigated.

What Are Some Steps That Someone Filing A Sexual Harassment Claim Should Take?

Document what happened, gather all performance reviews, file written complaints, get the employee handbook and get a copy of their personnel file, which everyone has the right to do under federal law.

Make sure to write down everything that has happened as soon as possible. Be sure to gather any evidence that shows you are correct. Document the names of all witnesses and if possible document their contact information. Make sure you follow company procedure, however, and do not violate any company policies if at all possible.

If you have evidence that the harasser has engaged in such behavior before make sure to gather this information from other employees in a discreet manner. Do not advertise the fact that you have made a complaint. Be professional and do not engage in gossip.

Be careful about who you talk to about the case because if it does go into actual litigation in the state or federal courts, the individuals you speak to can become witnesses. Witnesses can be good or bad difficult because memory can be an issue.

It’s best to be careful about who you’re discussing the facts of a case with. I tell my clients not to speak of the issue at all with anyone other than me and the EEOC. Also keep in mind that if a case does settle an employer is likely to demand that a confidentiality agreement be signed. So the less people you discuss your claim with the better it will be.

Additionally, to protect the employee and employer a non-disparagement clause is also usually signed by both parties. This is an agreement to not speak in a negative way about the other employee. An employee looking for a new job will not want the employer saying bad things about the employee.

For more information on Importance Of Evidence & Witnesses, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling [number type=”1″] today.