In most instances, sexual harassment cases settle before they go to trial, and many settle before the lawsuit is even filed. Usually they settle in mediation. Mediation, in its traditional form, is a voluntary and confidential process, non-binding on the parties. It is negotiation through an intermediary (the mediator) who conducts private caucuses with each party, identifies key issues and explains the consequences of not reaching settlement. Since the goal of a mediator is to assist the parties in reaching an agreement acceptable to all, mediators do not impose their will or opinions on the parties.
The decision to settle your sexual harassment lawsuit is yours alone. Your attorney will provide you with guidance and recommendations on whether or not to settle. The parties can make settlement offers at any and all times in the life of a sexual harassment case (even after the case had gone to trial).
You should consider many factors to decide whether to settle, including
- Whether you have strong witnesses who are able and willing to testify at trial for you?
- Whether the defendant will file bankruptcy if you win?
- Whether you have the financial resources to make it through trial or whether you need money now to survive?
- Whether the defendant has strong evidence to justify to a jury the things that you are suing about?
- Whether you are willing to accept the risks of losing your case, and potentially being required to pay the defendant’s costs and attorneys’ fees?
- Whether you have proof of your damages such as lost wages (documents of many unsuccessful efforts to find a job or pay stubs from a lower paying job) and emotional distress (e.g., medical and therapy bills)?
- Will the defendant prevail against you at trial in its counter claim (if any)?
You won’t know your obligations in the event of a written settlement agreement until you enter into one. However, typically, written settlement agreements require the employee-plaintiff to
- keep the settlement confidential and pay penalties to the defendant-employer if the employee-plaintiff fails to do so
- agree to never reapply for employment with the defendant
- accept the tax consequences of any payment of money as part of the settlement
- give up all any and all claims known and unknown against the defendant-employer and related parties
- pay attorney fees to the defendant-employer in the event that it has to enforce the settlement when breached
- agree that any further disputes between the parties be subject to arbitration
Not only is sexual harassment illegal. The law also prohibits:
- Racial harassment
- Religious harassment
- Age-based harassment
- Harassment based on disability
- Harassment based on ethnicity or national origin