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Expert Witness Testimony Pertaining to #MeToo Allegations

In the fall of 2017, a social media campaign swept the nation which forever changed the perspective on sexual harassment in the workplace. This viral campaign included the stories of countless individuals who shared their personal stories of sexual assault, harassment and other misconduct. The #MeToo campaign helped break the silence on this proliferate misconduct.

In the aftermath of the movement, Hollywood directors, producers and A-list celebrities were accused of varying degrees of sexual misconduct. Many lawmakers were also accused of such acts, along with prominent members of the media. Expert witnesses play a pivotal role in civil litigation involving claims of sexual misconduct.

Types of Civil Claims

There are various types of civil claims that may be lodged against a person accused of sexual misconduct. A claim for assault or battery may be made, based on an intentional tort. Sexual harassment may be brought as part of an employment claim. Depending on the type of case, sexual harassment may be a form of discrimination or a violation of a person’s civil rights.
Sexual harassment may violate a person’s educational right.

Types of Sexual Harassment Expert Witnesses

There may be a variety of expert witnesses who may testify in civil cases involving claims of sexual harassment. Forensic experts may help interview the victim and determine the extent of misconduct. Psychologists may consider the overall impact of harassment on the victim or others. Legal experts may be able to provide information about various state or federal laws that specific misconduct may have implicated.

Sexual Harassment Definitions

At the federal level, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission helps define sexual harassment. The agency explains that it is illegal to harass an employee or applicant because of that person’s sex. Sexual harassment may include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, physical harassment or verbal harassment of a sexual nature. However, sexual harassment can also include making disparaging remarks about a person’s gender or about a certain sex. Comments do not actually have to be sexual in nature to be classified as sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can exist even if the victim and the harasser are of the same sex. Conduct is considered sexual harassment when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or results in an adverse employment decision like being demoted or fired.

State definitions of sexual harassment may vary from the federal definition. For example, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing defines sexual harassment as leering, making sexual gestures, displaying sexually suggestive objects or pictures, making derogatory comments or slurs, making comments about an individual’s body, using sexually degrading words, assaulting, touching, impeding or blocking movements, offering employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors or threatening retaliation if a person refuses sexual advances.

Characteristics of Sexual Harassment Expert Witnesses

Expert witnesses may be retained on either side of a sexual harassment claim. These experts often have specialized knowledge in federal, state and local laws pertaining to sexual harassment and discrimination. They may have assisted companies with establishing strong policies prohibiting such conduct. They may be able to help determine which type of conduct is implicated given the facts and circumstances surrounding specific cases.

Potential Damages

Another important area that employment experts can help with is determining the type of damages that are implicated in a given case. Damages may be different in various cases, but they may include back pay, front pay, compensation for lost benefits, reinstatement and emotional distress damages. They may be able to explain why certain damages and amounts are appropriate in a given case.

In Title VII cases, there may be additional damages that may be imposed against a defendant. For example, employers may be required to retrain their staff on sexual harassment policies. They may be required to implement new policies. They may be required to monitor the actions of offending employees and to report certain information back to the EEOC. Attorneys’ fees and court costs may also be repaid to the plaintiff.

Damages available in sexual harassment claims based on state laws may be broader.

Contact an Expert Witness for Help

Sexual misconduct cases may deal with differing individual experiences, laws and representation. Due to the specialized knowledge that expert witnesses have, issues can be clarified and important testimony may be provided. This contribution is often invaluable to lawyers who try to create a customized legal strategy centered around these facts. As more #MeToo stories emerge, expert witnesses can be called to help provide an expert opinion on these matters.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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