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New York Court Discusses Res Judicata in Sexual Harassment Cases

May 21, 2020

Similar to protections against double jeopardy, civil law provides defendants protections against having to defend against the same claims more than once. For example, a plaintiff alleging sexual harassment claims against a defendant only has one chance to recover damages under such claims and cannot pursue the claims against the defendant in a different forum following the resolution of the initial claims. This was recently discussed by a federal court in New York, in a case in which the plaintiff filed a federal sexual harassment lawsuit against the defendant following the dismissal of her claims in state court. If you live or work in New York and were subjected to sexual harassment at work, it is critical to retain a New York sexual harassment attorney who will fight to help you recover damages.

Factual Background of the Case

Allegedly, the plaintiff was employed by the defendant school district as a teaching assistant. She stated that during the course of her employment, she was sexually harassed by a co-worker, but when she reported the harassment, the defendant terminated her, rather than address the behavior of her co-worker. She subsequently filed a federal lawsuit against the defendant asserting numerous claims, including claims that her co-worker engaged in sexual harassment, which created a hostile work environment, and a claim that she was subject to retaliation for engaging in whistleblower activities by reporting the harassment. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that res judicata precluded the plaintiff from pursuing claims for sexual harassment and retaliation.

Res Judicata Under New York Law

Under New York law, the doctrine of res judicata precludes a party from litigation in a subsequent action any issues that were actually litigated or could have been litigated in a prior action arising out of the same claims. In other words, a prior decision issued on the merits of a case is binding on all subsequent litigation arising between the parties arising out of the same facts, even if the subsequent action sets forth new theories or seeks different relief, as long as the claims in the second action were or could have been asserted in the first action.

In the subject case, the court noted that the plaintiff previously filed a lawsuit against the defendant in state court, alleging the same facts and many of the same causes of action. The plaintiff’s state court lawsuit was ultimately dismissed due to inadequacies in the plaintiff’s pleadings. Thus, the court found that the plaintiff’s federal lawsuit was barred by the doctrine of res judicata and granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

Meet With an Experienced Employment Attorney

If you were the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, it is advisable to meet with an experienced New York sexual harassment attorney to discuss what damages you may be able to recover in a civil lawsuit. The assertive attorneys of Gerstman Schwartz LLP are adept at helping people hold their employers accountable for discrimination and harassment in the workplace, and we will advocate tirelessly on your behalf. We can be contacted at our Manhattan office by calling (212) 227-7070 or at our Garden City office by calling (516) 880-8170. You can also contact us through our online form to schedule a free and confidential meeting.

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