Many employment discrimination cases involve delicate issues that require the disclosure of highly sensitive and sometimes offensive information. Despite this, the courts tend to favor that cases remain open. That is, a court will generally allow the pleadings in a case to remain accessible to the public in most instances, and a party that seeks to have a case sealed faces a high burden. The grounds for sealing a case were analyzed in a recent opinion set forth by a New York court in a sexual harassment case. If you were the victim of harassment in the workplace, you may be able to seek damages and should speak to a skillful New York sexual harassment attorney promptly to discuss your rights.
Background of the Case
It is alleged that the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant employer and supervisor, setting forth claims of sex discrimination, retaliation, and sexual harassment under both federal and state law. The case was resolved expeditiously, in that a settlement was reached before the defendants made an appearance in the case. Thus, the case information mostly consisted of the docket sheet and the plaintiff’s complaint. The plaintiff nonetheless filed a motion to seal the case. The defendants consented to the motion, but the court ultimately denied the plaintiff’s request regardless.
Grounds for Sealing a Sexual Harassment Case
The court explained that the press and the public have a qualified right under the First Amendment to access certain judicial documents, including complaints and docket sheets. Although judicial documents may be sealed if such protections are demanded by higher values, such restriction require specific findings, on the record, that such closures are necessary to preserve higher values and that the closure is narrowly tailored to serve that interest. As such, sealing an entire case file is a last resort.