How Long Does a Sexual Harassment Case Take?

sexual harassment case

Thanks to legal reforms and the MeToo movement, many employees today understand that they don’t have to suffer workplace sexual harassment in silence. However, despite increased awareness of the importance of holding perpetrators accountable, the legal process involved remains murky for many employees. 

This blog post will explain what happens in a workplace sexual harassment case. We’ll walk through the steps involved in an average workplace harassment lawsuit and discuss how long it takes to reach a resolution.

Workplace Sexual Harassment: Your Legal Options

From a legal viewpoint, sexual harassment is a form of illegal employment discrimination. When an employee faces intimidating, abusive treatment because of their sex, it’s a violation of their right to earn a living in a discrimination-free environment.

Both federal and state employment laws prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. At the national level, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 gives employers the responsibility to protect employees from harassment based on sex. This responsibility includes the duty to promptly investigate any sexual harassment claims and take appropriate corrective actions to end it.

If an employer fails to meet this duty, victims of harassment may be able to file a lawsuit against them in federal court. However, Title VII’s sexual harassment regulations only apply to employers of a specific size. If your boss has fewer than 15 employees, they’re not bound by these legal requirements.

Fortunately, many state anti-harassment laws offer additional and sometimes broader protections than federal ones. In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) bans sexual harassment against anyone in the workplace, regardless of the employer’s size.

Under this law, employers also must protect against harassment based on someone’s gender, pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Even nonemployees—interns, volunteers, contractors—have the right to sue for sexual harassment in California under FEHA. 

Steps Involved in a Sexual Harassment Case

Let’s break down the stages involved in the average sexual harassment lawsuit in California. Remember that not all harassment cases follow these steps in this exact order. Different states also have their legal procedures for filing employment lawsuits. It’s essential to consult with a sexual harassment lawyer to understand the course of action specific to your case.

Informing Your Employer 

In this stage, you have the most control over the timeline. The sooner you report harassment to your employer, the sooner they can investigate it. Remember, your employer has a legal duty to respond to allegations of illegal harassment on their watch.

Review your employee manual or talk to your HR department to learn the official procedure for reporting inappropriate behavior. Follow that process to a T, and record when and how you register your complaint.

Evidence Gathering and Internal Investigation

It’s your employer’s legal obligation to investigate your harassment claim promptly. As part of their investigation, they may ask you to make an official statement and provide evidence of your mistreatment.

This could include emails, notes, messages, drawings, images, and other offensive communications you received. You should also write down in detail your memory of any incidents of harassment, noting when and where they happened, along with the names of any witnesses.

Filing an Administrative Complaint 

Both federal and California employment laws require victims of sexual harassment to file an administrative complaint before they can sue. An employment lawyer can help you understand the best course of action for your case and ensure you meet the filing deadlines.

The deadline for sexual harassment claims made with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is usually 180 days after the incident. However, for California employees, this is extended to 300 days. If you want to sue under California law, you have up to three years after the last act of harassment to file your complaint with the Civil Rights Department (CRD).

Obtain Right-to-Sue Letter

The EEOC or CRD will review your complaint and can decide to investigate. When the inquiry is complete, the agency may file a lawsuit on your behalf or issue you a right-to-sue letter. If you don’t want to wait for the agency to investigate, your lawyer can help you request a right-to-sue letter when you file your complaint. 

File Lawsuit

After you get a right-to-sue letter, you have 90 days to file a federal lawsuit or up to a year to sue in California civil court. Your lawyer and the opposing counsel may conduct further investigation, collect evidence, file motions, and engage in mediation.

If both parties can agree to a resolution, the case could be settled without trial. Otherwise, the dispute will move to court, where a judge will review the evidence and decide.

Timeline for Resolving a Sexual Harassment Case

The length of a sexual harassment lawsuit depends on many factors at every step in the process, including:

  • When you report the harassment,
  • How quickly your employer takes action following your report,
  • The depth of an employer’s internal investigation,
  • How busy the EEOC or CRD is when you file a complaint,
  • The amount and strength of your evidence,
  • The number of witnesses involved,
  • How soon your employer responds to an administrative inquiry, and 
  • The willingness of opposing legal counsel to negotiate.

Many of the stages described in the previous section can last months. Depending on their legal complexity and the court's schedule, cases that go to trial may take years to resolve. 

Ultimately, sexual harassment lawsuits can often take quite a bit of time to conclude. This can be frustrating for victims who have little control over how long it takes to see justice.

If you’re considering a sexual harassment lawsuit, you should know that there is one important area you do have control: your legal representative. The legal knowledge and negotiation skills of an experienced employment lawyer can help streamline the litigation process and avoid unnecessary procedural delays.

A skilled employment attorney knows how to anticipate your employer or perpetrator’s defenses and prepare a strategy to counter them, reducing time spent in mediation and court. Overall, the support of a competent sexual harassment lawyer can help move victims more efficiently toward the best possible outcome for their cases. 

Dedicated Legal Advocates Ensuring Swift Resolutions

At Starpoint Law, we understand how overwhelming the legal process can feel to victims of workplace sexual harassment. However, you don’t have to fight this battle on your own. Our employment attorneys have years of legal expertise and litigation experience, helping California employees get justice for the wrongdoing they’ve suffered.

As advocates, we prioritize empathy, integrity, and commitment in all our client relationships and have the track record to prove it. If you’re battling sexual harassment at work, contact our office today to speak to a legal representative—initial consultations are always free.

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Starpoint Injury Law Staff

Starpoint Law was founded on a number of core principles that allow us to help our clients and develop deep and meaningful relationships. If you have suffered injuries or facing an issue with your employer, reach out to our legal team and we can sit down for a free consultation and start the process immediately.

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