What to do if you are feeling Sexually Harassed at Work — Part IV: Filing in Court

This blog on the filing of a sexual harassment lawsuit is the fourth in a series directed answering the most pressing questions of victims suffering from sexual harassment. The first three parts to this series are: Part I, reporting the harassment can be foundPart II, the EEOC Charge and Mediation;  Part III, the EEOC investigation.

This series, was developed to answer the frequently asked question, “What should an employee do if she is feeling sexually harassed at work.”  We have said before, and we will say it again in each of these blogs, the very short answer is: call an attorney immediately. Do not wait; do not let the pain, frustration and anger build. AND DO NOT QUIT. You will have all kinds of concerns about what will happen if you take certain actions and how to best proceed. Each situation is different and these blogs are not intended as legal advice as to a particular situation. A consultation with a lawyer will give you the opportunity to explore the issues related to your particular situation.

In Parts II and III, we discussed the EEOC process. Once the EEOC process is concluded, if there has been no resolution to the case, you will have the opportunity to take your case to court.  In some very rare cases, the EEOC may file a case in its name against the employer.  At that point, you are not the plaintiff.  You can however join as a plaintiff in the case with your own attorney.  In other cases, the EEOC will simply issue a Notice of Right to Sue.  At this point you have 90 days to file your case in Federal Court.  (There are state laws against sexual harassment as well.  In Illinois you might have a case pending at the Illinois Department of Human Rights or the Illinois Human Rights Commission.  These articles focus on Federal law.)  Remember that some months have 31 days and February has 28 or 29.  Thus, 90 days does not mean three months.  It means 90 days.

If you do not have an attorney, you will have to file a pro se complaint.  This means that you are representing yourself.  The clerk’s office at your Federal Courthouse will have forms for you to complete, including a complaint.  The complaint is the document that starts the case.  It informs the court of your claims.  The pro se form will provide much of the language the complaint needs along with blanks where you enter specific information including your contact information and your employer’s, as well as a narrative of the sexual harassment.  If you are represented by an attorney, he will prepare a complaint and file it for you. It will not be a form and it will be more complete.

Along with the Complaint, you will need to file several other forms: an appearance which provides your contact information for the court, a cover sheet which assists the court in preparing its records, and a summons which you will have served on the employer along with the complaint.  This is what notifies the employer about the lawsuit.  The employer will then have a period of time to file an answer to the complaint.

When you file your case, the court will assign a judge.  The judge will often set a case status hearing to set deadlines for the various stages of your case.  The judge may also attempt to restart settlement discussions either with himself or with another judge.

f you feel that you have been a victim of sexual harassment, contact Maduff & Maduff. Our attorneys have been specializing in discrimination, wage and overtime theft, and civil rights for more than 20 years. Contact us with your employment legal concerns today.