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New York Court Discusses Grounds for Sealing a Sexual Harassment Case

November 10, 2020

Many employment discrimination cases involve delicate issues that require the disclosure of highly sensitive and sometimes offensive information. Despite this, the courts tend to favor that cases remain open. That is, a court will generally allow the pleadings in a case to remain accessible to the public in most instances, and a party that seeks to have a case sealed faces a high burden. The grounds for sealing a case were analyzed in a recent opinion set forth by a New York court in a sexual harassment case. If you were the victim of harassment in the workplace, you may be able to seek damages and should speak to a skillful New York sexual harassment attorney promptly to discuss your rights.

Background of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant employer and supervisor, setting forth claims of sex discrimination, retaliation, and sexual harassment under both federal and state law. The case was resolved expeditiously, in that a settlement was reached before the defendants made an appearance in the case. Thus, the case information mostly consisted of the docket sheet and the plaintiff’s complaint. The plaintiff nonetheless filed a motion to seal the case. The defendants consented to the motion, but the court ultimately denied the plaintiff’s request regardless.

Grounds for Sealing a Sexual Harassment Case

The court explained that the press and the public have a qualified right under the First Amendment to access certain judicial documents, including complaints and docket sheets. Although judicial documents may be sealed if such protections are demanded by higher values, such restriction require specific findings, on the record, that such closures are necessary to preserve higher values and that the closure is narrowly tailored to serve that interest. As such, sealing an entire case file is a last resort.

In the subject case, the court found that the plaintiff had merely set forth blanket statements that the case consisted of averments of sexual harassment that were uniquely private and highly sensitive to the parties involved. The court noted that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that sealing the entirety of the case was critical to preserving higher values or that it was carefully tailored to serve those interests. The court explained that the fact that a case involves allegations of sexual harassment, standing alone, is not sufficient to justify sealing a case. Thus, the court denied the plaintiff’s motion.

Speak With a Dedicated New York Attorney

Sexual harassment cases often involve private issues, but they will generally remain open except for in rare cases. If you were the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, it is advisable to speak to an attorney to discuss what you must prove to recover damages. The dedicated New York sexual harassment attorneys of Gerstman Schwartz LLP are adept at helping aggrieved employees seek redress for their losses and, if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach us via our online form or by calling our Manhattan office at (212) 227-7070 or our Garden City office at (516) 880-8170 to schedule a meeting.

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