What is Involved in a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit?

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  • Written By: Christopher John
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 05 April 2020
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A sexual harassment lawsuit generally involves a complaint, a response, discovery, and a trial. Some jurisdictions require filing a complaint with a governmental agency prior to filing a lawsuit. Sexual harassment is any unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that is pervasive or severe. Examples include unwanted kissing, touching, sexual innuendos, or pictures of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination and most jurisdictions prohibit such conduct in the workplace.

Some jurisdictions require a person to file a formal complaint with a governmental agency before filing a sexual harassment lawsuit. In the U.S., the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for investigating and prosecuting claims of sexual harassment. Failure to file a complaint with the EEOC may prevent a person from pursuing a sexual harassment lawsuit in court. There are deadlines to file a complaint with the EEOC. Missing a deadline may result in losing important legal rights and remedies.

The laws and procedures for filing a sexual harassment lawsuit vary in each jurisdiction. A victim of sexual harassment should immediately confer with a lawyer knowledgeable in such cases. An experienced lawyer likely knows the best steps for protecting the rights of a victim. If required, a lawyer may help file a complaint with the appropriate governmental agency. Thereafter, a lawyer may file a lawsuit if the agency fails to resolve the matter to a victim’s satisfaction.


To file a sexual harassment lawsuit, a lawyer prepares a complaint. The complaint contains the plaintiff’s claims against a defendant and a request for money damages. The claims are allegations that the plaintiff must prove. The lawyer files the complaint with the court. A process server or a sheriff then serves the complaint along with a summons on the defendant.

Typically, a defendant has 30 days to file a response to the sexual harassment lawsuit. The response may be in the form of a motion or an answer. A motion is a request asking the court to take a specific action such as throwing out the complaint on various grounds such as failure to exhaust administrative remedies. An answer is a response that admits or denies each allegation stated in the complaint. A defendant’s answer may include counterclaims against the plaintiff.

Each party to a sexual harassment lawsuit may conduct discovery. Discovery is a process that allows each side to uncover information about the other side’s case. Discovery methods include depositions, interrogatories, and requests for admissions. A lawyer might use discovery to obtain documents from a company that failed to address claims of sexual harassment, for example.

Thereafter, the court conducts a trial, unless the parties settle the sexual harassment lawsuit. Each side presents its case by having witnesses testify and offering other types of evidence to the court such as documents or videos. A judge and/or a jury hears the case and makes a decision. The party losing the case may file an appeal. The entire process can take years, and the costs may be substantial for each side.


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