The #MeToo movement has been shedding light on the serious and often hidden problem of workplace sexual harassment. Victims of sexual harassment have come forward over the past several years in dozens of cases involving prominent figures and major corporations, which has drawn widespread public attention to the issue and encouraged more people to speak out.
For victims, one of the most troubling aspects of filing a lawsuit is still the risk of public humiliation, loss of privacy, and potential retaliation. One way to avoid this is to file an anonymous lawsuit, but unfortunately, the outcome of requesting to keep one’s name private is not guaranteed. In 2018, the number of victims who filed anonymous sexual harassment lawsuits doubled from previous years. Succeeding in keeping one’s name anonymous is rare in court, but the justice system is now reckoning with balancing the rights of both plaintiffs and defendants.
Legal Issues Involved
The judicial system includes the accused’s right to confront their accuser in court. Anonymity in employment lawsuits is rare, and courts typically require the plaintiff to show that there are exceptional circumstances that warrant allowing a pseudonym. If the details are extremely personal, or the victim is at risk of potential harm if their name becomes public, the case may be granted anonymity. However, the decision is at the judge’s discretion and many federal judges are reluctant to overturn the longstanding precedent of transparency in court cases. For those who experienced sexual harassment on the job, it is critical to contact an employment lawyer who has the skill to advise you of your rights and to develop the strongest case possible to bring to court.
In some cases, despite what would seem to a layperson to be a strong argument for anonymity, courts have ruled against the plaintiff’s request. Courts have found, particularly in the growing number of cases involving major corporations, that the company also has a right to fairness that must be balanced. In several cases, judges have ruled against victims who have alleged potential harm if their identity was revealed, even including cases of rape, explicit photos, and personal information. Companies have successfully argued that even if a victim alleges potential harm to their reputation, companies have a right to protect their image and reputation as well. This is another reason why hiring an employment lawyer with a track record of preparing a strong legal case is highly recommended.