Questions the employer’s attorney may ask you at your sexual harassment deposition

As part of its formal investigation into the facts underlying your sexual harassment lawsuit, the attorney for your (former) employer will take your deposition. Here is a sampling of the types of questions you will be asked:

Questions Regarding the Employer’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Policies

Did you ever receive a copy of [Employer]’s employee handbook?

  • When?
  • Who gave it to you?
  • Did you read it?
  • Do you recall that the employee handbook had a provision in it forbidding sexual harassment?
  • What do you recall about the employee handbook provision forbidding sexual harassment?
  • Do you recall that the employee handbook provision forbidding sexual harassment contained a complaint procedure for employees to follow if the employee felt that he or she was being sexually harassed?
  • What do you recall that an employee was supposed to do pursuant to that complaint procedure?

Could you please take as much time as you would like to review this document [the Employee Handbook] and let me know when you have completed your review?

  • Have you ever seen this document before?
  • When?
  • Directing your attention to the paragraph titled Anti-Sexual Harassment Policy on page __ of the Employee Handbook, have you ever read the Anti-Sexual Harassment policy set forth in [Employer’s] Employee Handbook?
  • When?

Did you ever sign an Acknowledgment of Receipt of the Employee Handbook?

  • Could you please take as much time as you would like to review this document [the Acknowledgment of Receipt of Employee Handbook] and let me know when you have completed your review?
  • Have you ever seen this document before?
  • When?
  • Is that your signature at the bottom of this exhibit?
  • Directing your attention to the first paragraph of this exhibit—“I acknowledge that I have received a copy of [Employer]’s Employee Handbook, that I have carefully reviewed it, and that I understand it.” At the time you signed this exhibit was that statement accurate—that you had received a copy of the employee handbook, carefully reviewed it, and understood it?
  • Directing your attention to the next paragraph of the employee handbook—“I understand that I am responsible for knowing and complying with all of the policies set forth in the Employee Handbook. I agree that if I ever have any questions regarding the Employee Handbook or any of [Employer’s] policies, I will immediately raise my questions with my supervisor or the Human Resources Department.” At the time you signed this exhibit, did you understand that you were responsible for knowing and complying with all of the policies set forth in the employee handbook?
  • At the time you signed this exhibit, did you understand that it you had any questions about the employee handbook you were agreeing to immediately ask your supervisor or the Human Resources Department?
  • Did you ever have any questions about the employee handbook?

Did you ever sign an Acknowledgment of Receipt, Careful Review, And Commitment to Comply With [Employer’s] Policies Against Discrimination And Harassment?

  • Could you please take as much time as you would like to review this document [Acknowledgment of Receipt, Careful Review, and Commitment to Comply With [Employer’s] Policies Against Discrimination and Harassment] and let me know when you have completed your review?
  • Have you ever seen this document before?
  • When?
  • Is that your signature at the bottom of this exhibit?
  • Directing your attention to the first paragraph of this exhibit—“I acknowledge that I have received a copy of [Employer]’s policies against discrimination and harassment, that I have carefully reviewed these policies, and that I understand them. I understand that I am responsible for knowing and following these policies. I agree that if I ever have any questions regarding these policies or any of [Employer]’s policies, I will immediately raise my questions with my supervisor or the Human Resources Department.” At the time that you signed this exhibit, had you received and read the company’s policies against discrimination and harassment?
  • At the time that you signed this exhibit, did you understand that if you had any question about the company’s policies against discrimination and harassment, that you would immediately raise your questions with your supervisor or the Human Resources Department?
  • Did you ever have any questions regarding the company’s policies against discrimination and harassment?
  • Directing your attention to the second paragraph of this exhibit—“I understand that [Employer] absolutely forbids any type of harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions), national origin, gender identification, ancestry, age, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, family care status, veteran status, marital status, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic protected by law. Harassment includes verbal, visual, and physical conduct that creates an intimidating, offensive, or hostile working environment or that interferes with work performance.” At the time that you signed this document, did you understand that [Employer] did not tolerate sexual harassment?
  • Directing your attention to the third paragraph of this exhibit—“Any incident of harassment by any [Employer] employee, independent contractor, customer, vendor, or any other person should be immediately reported to the Human Resources Department. If a member of the Human Resources Department is engaging in the harassment, the report should be made directly to [Employer]’s President.” At the time you signed this exhibit, did you understand that you were required to report any incidents of sexual harassment to the Human Resources Department?
  • Did you ever attend one the [name of defendant]’s anti-sexual harassment training seminars? When?
  • Who else was present?
  • Who taught anti-sexual harassment training seminars?
  • What was said?
  • Is it accurate to say that during [Employer]’s anti-sexual harassment training seminar, you learned that [Employer] did not tolerate sexual harassment?
  • Is it accurate to say that during [Employer]’s anti-sexual harassment training seminar, you learned that [Employer] did not retaliate against employees who reported sexual harassment?
  • Is it accurate to say that during [Employer]’s anti-sexual harassment training seminar, you learned that [Employer] actually encouraged employees to report sexual harassment?

You were a supervisor at [Employer], correct?

  • You were responsible for stopping sexual harassment in the workplace if you became aware of it, correct?
  • You were responsible for reporting sexual harassment in the workplace to human resources if you became aware of it, correct?
  • As a supervisor of [Employer], you understood that sexual harassment was not permitted at [Employer], correct?

Questions Regarding the Employee’s Use or Non-Use of the Employer’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Complaint Procedures

Did you ever use [Employer]’s anti-sexual harassment complaint procedures?

  • If yes: To whom did you complain? When? Anyone else present? Anyone take notes? What was said?
  • If no: Why not?

Are you aware of any employees who have used [Employer]’s anti-sexual harassment complaint procedures?

  • Who?
  • When?
  • Against whom?
  • Do you know the substance of the complaint?
  • Are you aware of any action taken by [Employer]?
    You’ve complained about sexual harassment on several occasions, correct?

  • [Employer] always took action in response to your complaints, correct?
  • So, it is accurate to say that you knew how to use [Employer]’s anti-sexual harassment complaint procedures, correct?

Some cases suggest that if a person complains about sexual harassment, but either fails to describe it fully and completely or requests that the employer do nothing, that person has failed to satisfy his or her legal obligations under the governing sexual harassment law. Hence, defense counsel may attempt to elicit from you the fact that you did not fully describe the harassment or asked the employer to do nothing about it. For example:

  • Is it accurate to say that you did not fully describe to [Employer]’s human resources department the sexual harassment that you were suffering?
  • You were not very specific in describing to [Employer]’s human resources department the sexual harassment that you were suffering, correct?
  • You did not tell [Employer]’s human resources department that [name of harasser] sexually harassed you by [insert conduct not complained about], correct?
  • You never actually used the words “sexual harassment” when you complained to [Employer]’s human resources department about [name of harasser], correct?
  • You waited for nearly a year after [name of harasser]’s harassment started before you finally spoke to [Employer]’s human resources department about it, correct?
  • When you spoke with [Employer]’s human resources department about the conduct of [name of harasser], you asked them not to do anything, correct?

Questions Regarding the Alleged Sexual Harassment

  • During your employment with [Employer], were you sexually harassed?
  • Who sexually harassed you during your employment with [Employer]? With regard to each person who sexually harassed you, the employer’s attorney will then ask:
    • When?
    • Where?
    • Describe what happened.
    • How did you respond?
    • Did you tell anyone about it?
    • Did you make any notes about it?
    • Any witnesses? If yes: What did the witnesses do? What did the witnesses say?
    • Did you report this conduct to anyone at [Employer]?
    • Have you now fully described each and every incident in which you were sexually harassed?

    Questions Regarding Other Alleged Sexual Harassment

    Are you aware of whether [name of alleged harasser] sexually harassed anyone else? For each person sexually harassed by the alleged harasser:

    • When?
    • Where?
    • Describe what happened?
    • How did the alleged victim respond?
    • How did you respond?
    • Did the alleged victim tell anyone about it?
    • Did you tell anyone about it?
    • Did the alleged victim make any notes about it?
    • Did you make any notes about it?
    • Any witnesses? If yes: What did the witnesses do? What did the witnesses say?
    • Did the alleged victim report this conduct to anyone at [Employer]?
    • Did you report this conduct to anyone at [Employer]?
    • Have you now fully described each and every incident in which you believe that someone else was sexually harassed by [name of alleged harasser]?

    Questions Designed to Bolster the “Equal Opportunity Harasser” or Bisexual Harasser Defense

    Some courts have held that where the harasser sexually harasses both men and women, the “equal opportunity” or bisexual sexual harasser defense voids liability on the part of the employer. Accordingly, the employer’s counsel may attempt to establish that the harasser engaged in sexually harassing or offensive remarks and/or conduct toward both men and women.

    • Is it accurate to say that [name of harasser] made sexually derogatory remarks to both men and women?
    • Is it accurate to say that [name of harasser] told sexually explicit jokes to both men and women?
    • [Name of harasser] tried to show his home pornography movies to both men and women?
    • [Name of harasser] was bisexual, correct? [He][She] came on to both men and women, correct?

    Questions Regarding Retaliation

    Do you believe that [name of harasser] has retaliated against you in any way?

    • How did [name of harasser] retaliate against you?
    • Any witnesses?
    • Did you keep notes?
    • Did you tell anyone?
    • Did you report [name of harasser]’s conduct to anyone at the company?