Timeline of an NYC Sexual Harassment Case

Learn directly from a lawyer how cases proceed

Are you considering pursing a sexual harassment case against your employer but worried about the legal process? Many people incorrectly assume their court case will take years to resolve. Fortunately, that is not necessarily the case. Only about 1% of the sex harassment claims the Derek Smith Law Group represents actually go for a lengthy jury trial. The vast majority of our NYC cases typically settle through negotiation.

The First Steps In Your NYC Sexual Harassment Case

If you believe you have just cause for a legal claim of harassment or discrimination, start off by contacting our law firm. We schedule you for an initial consultation with a paralegal or attorney. Bring hard copies of any evidence you may have to your initial consultation. During that meeting, you give a very detailed recitation of the facts, including:

  • Where and when the harassment took place
  • Parties involved
  • Details of the harassment
  • Whether criminal conduct took place
  • Review of all evidence, such as phone records, photographs, texts, emails and other hard evidence

After our meeting, your New York City sexual harassment lawyer drafts a proposed complaint and sends it to the defendant to review. This means we send the individual harasser or harassers and the company you worked for a copy of what the lawsuit would look like. They have a chance to review the proposed lawsuit and decide if they want to discuss settlement rather than litigate.

What happens next

Your case can take one of two routes: either the defendant (your employer and harasser) chooses the negotiation/settlement option or they refuse to settle. Generally, within a few weeks after sending the proposed lawsuit,  the Derek Smith Law Group receives a phone call from the defendant’s attorney with their decision. Assuming negotiations proceed and a settlement reached, it will be 100% confidential.

If the defendant opts not to settle, or they do not answer our proposed complaint, your attorney generally files a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Route one: a charge with the EEOC

So, your employer or former employer does not want to settle or does not answer our letters. Your lawyer will now file a charge with the EEOC. Once the charge is filed, the EEOC may schedule a mediation within three months and you can hopefully settle at mediation.

If meditation is unsuccessful or the employer does not want meditation, the EEOC issues a Right to Sue letter. This is your “ticket to sue” in federal. At this stage, your case is still 100% confidential. Only once the lawsuit is started does the case become a matter of public record.

At any time, you and the defendant can opt for private mediation.

Route two: filing a lawsuit in Court

Here are the reasons you would bring your case to court:

  • Negotiation attempts were unsuccessful
  • Private meditation attempts were unsuccessful
  • EEOC meditation attempts were unsuccessful
  • Defendant did not answer proposed lawsuit
  • Defendant was not interested in meditation with either the EEOC or privately

For Sexual Harassment cases and Discrimination cases once you get your Right to Sue notice from the EEOC, you have 90 days to file a lawsuit in federal court. Alternatively, , generally speaking, you have three years from the acts of harassment/discrimination to file a case in state court. Once we file an official complaint with the court, your case is now public court record.

After complaint is filed, we have 120 day to serve copy of the complaint to the Defendant. Once they have been served, the Defendant has 30 days to answer the complaint. Typically, they deny all harassment or make a Motion to Dismiss the entire suit.

The court process

There is a specific procedure in line after the defendant answers the complaint. To go all the way to an actual jury trial, takes between two to three years, but remember very few cases actually go to trial. During any point of the process, the defendant has the option to settle. Defense costs are high, so settlement is often very desirable for all parties involved.

Paper discovery

Paper discovery happens after the defendant answers the initial complaint. Your attorney requests interrogatories from the opposing party. Interrogatories are a list of questions about the case which we request the defendant answer. We also send a request for, among other documents, the personnel file of the plaintiff and all records of prior complaints against the company or harasser.

The defendant also asks for their own set of interrogatories, in addition to the plaintiff’s psychologist records, social media evidence, text messages, emails, proof of effort to find a job and anything else relevant to the case.

Either side has the option for discovery arguments and to make a motion to the court to not reveal specific records to compel production of certain records. The time between the start of the lawsuit and the completion of paper discovery is generally five to seven months after their answer.


About eight months into the process, and after paper discovery has been completed, each side has the opportunity to depose witnesses. The plaintiffs and defendants have seven hours to meet with each witness. Witnesses may include psychologists, Human Resources representatives, managers, co-workers and anyone else involved in the harassment or discrimination. Defendant will most likely have the plaintiff seen by their psychologist to dispute our claims of emotional distress.

At this point, the defendant may make a Motion for Summary Judgment or a Motion to Dismiss. Most likely and hopefully, the motion is denied, or part of the motion is denied. A Defendant may also sometimes make a motion to dismiss right after receiving the complaint.

The trial

Once deposition and discovery efforts have completed, a joint pre-trial order is filed, which is a list everything that is going to be introduced at trial and the issues to be decided. A trial date is then scheduled. Again, a jury trial takes about two to three years to resolve from the beginning to end of the case, but it is very unlikely the case will ever go to trial. Some cases are bogged down with appeals or other issues and could take much more than three years to resolve.

Contact a New York attorney today for hard-hitting representation

To learn more about how we can help, contact the Derek Smith Law Group today. Don’t let the court process or timelines overwhelm you — we are here to walk you through every step of the process. Call today at 877-4NYLAWS. We do not collect any fees unless we successfully recover compensation on your behalf.


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