Stages of a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

If you need to file a sexual harassment complaint or lawsuit in California, you will most likely wonder how long the case will take to resolve. While this answer varies from case to case, most sexual harassment lawsuits follow the same general stages from start to finish. Learning these stages can help you understand the most likely timeline for your case.

Reporting Sexual Harassment to Your Employer

The first step is reporting the sexual harassment incident to your employer. You should do this as soon as possible – immediately or in the first few days. Give your employer a reasonable amount of time to respond to your complaint and take appropriate action to prevent further harassment. If your employer doesn’t do anything about your complaint, take the next step without delay and contact a sexual harassment lawyer in California.

Consulting a Sexual Harassment Attorney

Speaking to an attorney before bringing your case to a state or federal agency, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), can help you fully understand your legal rights. Your lawyer can take over settlement negotiations with your employer, for example, to increase your odds of achieving a settlement. Talking to a lawyer early on can help make the legal process as fast and efficient as possible.

Filing a Charge With State and Federal Agencies

If your employer refuses to take your sexual harassment case seriously, you or your attorney can file an official complaint with state and federal organizations. The state authority to contact in California is the Department of Fair Employment & Housing (DFEH). You have three years from the last act of sexual harassment to file this claim. The federal authority is the EEOC. You only have 180 days to file this type of claim, in most cases.

Investigation and Discovery

A lawyer can investigate your workplace or the individual accused of sexual harassment for evidence to support your claim at the same time that an agency is investigating your complaint. If there is evidence of harassment, your lawyer can enter into settlement negotiations with your employer’s insurance company on your behalf for fair and full financial compensation to pay for your lost wages and other damages. Most sexual harassment cases in California reach settlements. Negotiations can result in a settlement at any point before the start of a sexual harassment trial.

Going to Trial

While not all cases go to court, some sexual harassment matters require trials to be successfully resolved. If your case needs to go to trial, this will extend your timeline. While most sexual harassment settlements can be achieved in around three to six months, a lawsuit that involves a trial can take one year or longer from start to finish. 

A sexual harassment trial in California involves a discovery phase, with written interrogatories and spoken depositions to collect information about the incident. This phase can take a few weeks to several months, depending on the amount of evidence that needs to be discovered and collected. Pre-trial activities can also involve settlement negotiations, mediation, arbitration and motions filed by the defendant to dismiss the case.

If a sexual harassment case does not reach a settlement before the trial date arrives, both sides will present arguments, evidence and witnesses before a judge and jury at court. Then, the jury will deliberate to determine if the filing party has met the burden of proof. If so, the jury will issue a judgment against the defendant and require your employer to pay a certain amount of money in financial compensation.

Sexual harassment lawsuits can be complicated and highly involved legal disputes. The best way to protect your rights and expedite the legal process as much as possible is by hiring a sexual harassment lawyer to represent you. Start your case with a free consultation at Manly, Stewart & Finaldi for more information about the stages of your lawsuit.