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A harassment lawsuit is a case brought before a judge because a party feels he has been harassed in some manner. If the party who files the lawsuit, typically referred to as the plaintiff, is able to prove his case, stiff penalties may apply for the accused party. For example, a person who is convicted of harassing another may go to jail. In some cases, however, the penalty is monetary in nature, and the defendant ends up paying a fine or compensating the plaintiff in some other manner. Some harassment lawsuits are even settled out of court to save the defendant or the company involved the embarrassment that may come with public loss of the case.
There are different types of harassment, but generally a harassment lawsuit begins because a person repeatedly behaved in a manner that was perceived as intrusive or threatening. If the accused person's words or actions made another person feel less safe or secure, there may be a basis for a harassment lawsuit. In some cases, making certain gestures and intruding on another person's privacy may be considered grounds for a harassment suit as well.
Sometimes a person will seek a restraining order to deal with harassment that has caused him to feel threatened. If a restraining order is granted, it requires the accused person to stop his actions and stay away from the petitioner. In some cases, it may also cover phone calls, restricting the accused not only from physical interaction, but also from talking to the petitioner at all. If the person accused of harassment violates the terms of the restraining order, he may be given a jail sentence.
Sometimes a party who feels he’s been harassed may file a lawsuit against the person who harassed him. Generally, a person files such a lawsuit because the accused party caused some type of harm, which can be physical or emotional. For example, threats to cause physical harm may count as harassment as can touching another person in an unwanted manner. In lawsuits involving sexual harassment, a person may be guilty of harassment for rubbing his secretary’s shoulders when she did not want him to or for repeatedly making suggestive comments.
There are different types of damages that may be awarded in a harassment lawsuit. If physical harm results from harassment, even that brought on by emotion upheaval, the plaintiff may be awarded compensatory damages. In such a case, cash is awarded as compensation for losses. Nominal damages may be awarded if there was no physical harm, but the plaintiff’s rights were violated. In some cases, punitive damages are awarded as punishment for the deliberate acts of the harasser.