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Articles Posted in Sexual Harassment

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.

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In any employment discrimination case in New York, the plaintiff must not only demonstrate that the employer engaged in discriminatory practices but also that such behavior adversely impacted the plaintiff’s employment. Many acts may constitute an adverse action, including actual and constructive termination. Recently, a New York court discussed what constitutes constructive discharge in a case in which the plaintiff alleged he had to stop working because of sexual harassment. If you needed to stop working because of harassment in the workplace, you should meet with a seasoned New York sexual harassment attorney to assess whether you may be able to pursue a claim for damages.

The Alleged Harassment

Reportedly, the plaintiff was employed by the defendant as a car inspector from 2006 through 2017. He was diagnosed with numerous psychiatric disorders, for which he took medication. He began experiencing taunts from his coworkers in 2009 when they learned their supervisor preferred the plaintiff to other workers. In 2016, a coworker made a sexual comment to the plaintiff, which the plaintiff reported. Later that year, the same coworker placed a note expressing sexual thoughts inside of the plaintiff’s pocket, which the plaintiff reported as well.

Allegedly, the plaintiff’s coworkers then began teasing him about his mental health issues. Plaintiff submitted a complaint and then took a vacation. After he returned from vacation, he quit. He ultimately filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging that he was subjected to a hostile work environment due to sexual harassment and discrimination because of his mental illness. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment.

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Similar to protections against double jeopardy, civil law provides defendants protections against having to defend against the same claims more than once. For example, a plaintiff alleging sexual harassment claims against a defendant only has one chance to recover damages under such claims and cannot pursue the claims against the defendant in a different forum following the resolution of the initial claims. This was recently discussed by a federal court in New York, in a case in which the plaintiff filed a federal sexual harassment lawsuit against the defendant following the dismissal of her claims in state court. If you live or work in New York and were subjected to sexual harassment at work, it is critical to retain a New York sexual harassment attorney who will fight to help you recover damages.

Factual Background of the Case

Allegedly, the plaintiff was employed by the defendant school district as a teaching assistant. She stated that during the course of her employment, she was sexually harassed by a co-worker, but when she reported the harassment, the defendant terminated her, rather than address the behavior of her co-worker.  She subsequently filed a federal lawsuit against the defendant asserting numerous claims, including claims that her co-worker engaged in sexual harassment, which created a hostile work environment, and a claim that she was subject to retaliation for engaging in whistleblower activities by reporting the harassment. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that res judicata precluded the plaintiff from pursuing claims for sexual harassment and retaliation.

Res Judicata Under New York Law

Under New York law, the doctrine of res judicata precludes a party from litigation in a subsequent action any issues that were actually litigated or could have been litigated in a prior action arising out of the same claims. In other words, a prior decision issued on the merits of a case is binding on all subsequent litigation arising between the parties arising out of the same facts, even if the subsequent action sets forth new theories or seeks different relief, as long as the claims in the second action were or could have been asserted in the first action.

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Although many people assume the victim is female when they hear reports of sexual harassment in the workplace, men can be victims of sexual harassment as well. Regardless of whether a victim of sexual harassment is a man or a woman, however, it is essential for any victim of sexual harassment that wishes to pursue claims against his or her employer to take action in a timely manner. In some cases, though, if the harassment is ongoing, it may be deemed a continuing violation and may fall within the statute of limitations regardless of when the initial harm occurred. This was demonstrated in a recent case decided by a New York District Court, in which the court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s hostile work environment claims on the grounds that they were untimely. If you are a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, it is prudent to consult a capable New York sexual harassment attorney to assess what damages you may be owed.

Facts Regarding the Alleged Harassment

It is alleged that in April 2012, the plaintiff began working as a materials coordinator for the defendant employer. In May 2014, the defendant supervisor began making sexual advances and comments to the plaintiff, and touching him inappropriately. The plaintiff did not respond to the defendant supervisor’s advances but did not report them either, for fear of retaliation. The defendants subsequently engaged in several acts that created a hostile work environment.

Reportedly, the plaintiff requested numerous meetings with Human Resources, but only one meeting occurred, and no corrective action was taken thereafter. The plaintiff was subsequently terminated after which he filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which granted the plaintiff a right to sue letter. He then filed a lawsuit against the defendants, alleging numerous counts of sexual harassment, including a hostile work environment claim. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss arguing, inter alia, that the plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim was barred by the applicable statute of limitations.

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