The attorneys at the Akopyan Law Firm A.P.C. constantly hear from folks who mistakenly believe that they have been the victim of workplace sexual harassment, but that they have no evidence to prove it because they do not have any video or photo evidence of the harassing acts. Presumably, there are many folks out there who don’t even bother to call a sexual harassment lawyer for a free consultation because they think they need to have videos or photos to prove a case. Consequently, it is important to understand what exactly constitutes evidence in a sexual harassment case, as well as any other civil case that goes to trial.
What is Evidence?
In most, if not all, sexual harassment cases that go to trial, the court is likely to give the jury the following instruction: “Evidence can come in many forms. It can be testimony about what someone saw or heard or smelled. It can be an exhibit admitted into evidence. It can be someone’s opinion.
Direct evidence can prove a fact by itself. For example, if a witness testifies she saw a jet plane flying across the sky, that testimony is direct evidence that a plane flew across the sky. Some evidence proves a fact indirectly. For example, a witness testifies that he saw only the white trail that jet planes often leave. This indirect evidence is sometimes referred to as “circumstantial evidence.” In either instance, the witness’ testimony is evidence that a jet plane flew across the sky. As far as the law is concerned, it makes no difference whether the evidence is direct or indirect. You may choose to believe or disbelieve either kind. Whether it is direct or indirect, you should give every piece of evidence whatever weight you think it deserves.” Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (“CACI”) Instruction No. 202.
Therefore, while it would certainly be helpful to have in hand photographic or video evidence of sexual harassment, the reality is that in the vast and overwhelming majority of sexual harassment cases, no such evidence is available.
Witness Testimony Regarding Workplace Sexual Harassment
In most cases, the primary source of evidence to prove sexual harassment comes in the form of testimony from the victim of sexual harassment, as well as other witnesses who may have either observed or also been subjected to sexually harassing conduct.
For this reason, it is critically important for the victim of sexual harassment to take detailed notes regarding his or her experiences, including specific dates, times, locations, actions, exact words spoken, and other details regarding the events which the victim feels were sexually harassing.
Because the most common form of sexual harassment involves hostile work environment harassment, in many cases the victim will have to show, during the trial, harassing conduct which is both severe and pervasive. In other words, the harassing conduct must have an element of severity as well as an element of recurrence. Most victims of sexual harassment do not typically consult an attorney until the situation becomes unbearable, and in many cases that doesn’t happen immediately. This leads to a situation where the victim of sexual harassment sometimes doesn’t see a sexual harassment attorney for a long time after the harassment begins, and by the time they do see an attorney, they may not recall all the details of every act of harassment.
Since it is critically important to present a severe and pervasive pattern and practice of harassment which renders the workplace both hostile and abusive, it can be very helpful for the victim to maintain a diary and have it ready when consulting a “sexual harassment lawyer near me.”
The occurrence of sexual harassment, as well as the existence of a hostile work environment, can also be proven through the corroborating testimony of witnesses other than the plaintiff, such as coworkers or other victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. Once litigation ensues, there is oftentimes a big fight to get the contact information of witnesses who can testify to what they’ve observed. A victim of sexual harassment would do well to get the full names, personal phone numbers, and if possible personal addresses of all the individuals who are or can be potential witnesses.
Documentary Evidence Corroborating Sexual Harassment
Those who commit sexual harassment in the workplace oftentimes know full well that what they are doing is wrong and that they can get in trouble if they are caught. Consequently, harassers oftentimes try to cover their tracks. Despite their best efforts, sexual harassers in the workplace will end up leaving a paper trail that can be used against them. For example, frequent text messages from one employee to another regarding matters which are not at all work-related, especially text messages sent after hours, can be used to corroborate the fact that advances were made.
Other examples abound.
Other Evidence to Prove Workplace Sexual Harassment
There are many other forms and types of evidence that victims of sexual harassment can use to prove that they suffered. Instead of trying to figure things out on your own, however, the most efficient and expedient course of action would be for the victim of sexual harassment to contact an experienced and talented sexual harassment law firm for a free consultation.
Contact Akopyan Law Firm A.P.C. to talk to an experienced attorney that has plenty of experience with workplace sexual harassment claims. We offer a complimentary case evaluation and may offer contingency fee services. Our case results and testimonials speak to our expertise.