Unfortunately, sexual harassment cases are growing more and more commonplace in the working environment. Oftentimes, they may escalate to the courtroom setting if an employee feels wrongly treated or violated by another employee or manager at work. Employees are protected against all types of sexual harassment by federal and state laws as well as by company policies. Therefore, taking a harassment case to court is sometimes the best course of action for an employee who has been wrongfully terminated, physically or verbally abused, or harassed in some other way. It is common for sexual harassment cases to involve subpoenas, or written orders, from the government requiring an individual to come into the court to testify regarding their witnessing or involvement in the harassment charge. If you have been involved in a sexual harassment case at your place of employment or been called with a subpoena to testify in one, here are the things you need to know.
How Do Sexual Harassment Cases Work?
Sexual harassment cases in the workplace are generally based on the inappropriate and unwanted actions of one or more persons taken against an employee. These actions must be classified as sexual or provocative in nature. Federal law protects employees from physical and verbal sexual harassment of any kind. Sexual harassment must necessarily go above and beyond normal workplace actions. For instance, a case involving a female worker getting a write-up about constant tardiness may not prove itself to be true sexual harassment, but a sexual harassment case involving wrongful termination, physical or verbal abuse, or salary discrimination based on sex is likely to be addressed as such.
If an employee chooses to address the issue with the human resources department, the case will be opened and it may either be resolved internally or go to court. If a sexual harassment case does end up going to court, both the harassed victim and the accused defendant will be required to attest to their part in the charges. In addition, the court may wish to bring in other witnesses of the actions claimed by the victim. In this case, they will send those prospective witnesses a subpoena.
What Is the Role of a Subpoena?
A subpoena is a written court order that requires an individual to appear in court to testify about what he or she witnessed in a particular case. Because a subpoena is a legal summoning, you are required to attend to it. However, there are a couple of exceptions in which you can decline to appear in court.
- If showing up to the court case and testifying would be a breach of another legal contract, such as a client confidentiality statement or a doctor-patient contract, you may decline to appear.
- If your appearance and testifying could potentially involve or implicate you in legal wrongdoing, you could refuse to testify.
However, unless one of the above exceptions applies, you must be prepared to appear in court and testify to any relevant events or actions that you witnessed. Your responsibilities to the subpoena are fairly limited, meaning you are only required to talk about what you know directly to be true in regards to the case. If you have no memory of the alleged sexual harassment event, if you were unwell at the time or if you were not present, then you are free to state those facts and no more. You will not be asked to make any judgment calls on the case, and you will not be cornered into implicating yourself or someone else without appropriate cause.
Most people who are subpoenaed feel quite comfortable entering into the courtroom without the assistance of an attorney. However, if you feel like you need a lawyer to stand with you, you may also choose to enter with one.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.