We’ve successfully brought cases against universities across the United States for violations of Title IX, representing students and faculty members who have experienced discrimination, sexual violence or sexual harassment and have not been protected by their institution.
Our founding partner, Dr Ann Olivarius, was a plaintiff in Alexander v. Yale (1977), which established for the first time that sexual harassment at university constitutes sexual discrimination, which is illegal.
Dr Olivarius remains on the feminist front lines as a lawyer fighting Title IX violations. The firm’s publicly reported Title IX cases include representing Nefertiti Takla and Kristen Glasgow against UCLA concerning the actions of Professor Gabriel Piterberg; Monica Morrison against the University of Miami; and a group of professors and students at the University of Rochester for a hostile work environment and retaliation concerning the behavior of Professor Florian Jaeger.
A Brief Guide to Title IX
It is unlawful for any educational institution in receipt of federal funds to discriminate against you on the basis of sex. That is prohibited by Title IX of the 1972 Higher Education Amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It applies to both students and employees of the relevant institutions.
This means that students are protected from sex-based discrimination in any part of the provision of education, including admissions, financial aid, discipline, grading, student treatment and services.
Sexual harassment and sexual violence are forms of sex discrimination which universities are required to combat by Title IX.
If you think you may have suffered discrimination under Title IX, it is important that you seek prompt legal advice.
Title IX prohibits the following types of discrimination:
It is unlawful for an educational institution to discriminate against students and employees on the basis of sex. This includes unequal provision in any aspect of education, but it specifically mandates that schools and universities properly handle sexual harassment and sexual violence on campus.
To bring a Title IX complaint of discrimination based on sexual harassment or sexual violence, you need to complaint first to the university, and demonstrate that its treatment of the complaint displayed “reckless or deliberate indifference” to the harassment or violence you experienced.
For example, you are repeatedly groped at a campus party. The next day, you lodge a complaint with an employee of the university equal opportunity office, who brushes it off with the comment that “boys will be boys.” No investigation is conducted. You may have a claim for discrimination under Title IX.
Title IX also prohibits practices which are facially neutral but have a disparate impact on one gender group.
For example, a college physical education class has a minimum height requirement of 5’6” to ensure that participants can use all the equipment. This may be prohibited under Title IX because the rule will result in disproportionate numbers of women being ineligible for the class; the college will reasonably be expected to accommodate the substantial portion of females who are under 5’6”.
It is unlawful for an educational institution to intimidate, punish or discriminate against someone who files a Title IX complaint or assists with someone else’s Title IX complaint. To make a case for retaliation under Title IX, a number of things need to be demonstrated:
- That you engaged in a protected activity such as a complaint or investigation;
- That the institution knew about the protected activity;
- That the institution thereafter subjected you to an adverse action, treatment or conditions;
- That there is a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse action.
For example, you are a woman studying for a college degree, and your professor makes some sexually inappropriate comments during an office-hours meeting. After you make a complaint to the equal opportunities office, you start to receive noticeably lower grades for no legitimate reason, eventually leading to the revocation of your scholarship. You may have a claim for retaliation.
Your options: OCR Complaint and Private Suit
The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for enforcing Title IX. If you believe there has been an act of discrimination against a person or group in a program or activity which receives financial assistance from the Department of Education. You do not have to have suffered the discrimination to make the complaint – you may make it on behalf of another person or group.
OCR will then investigate the complaint, and, if the investigation indicates there has been a violation of Title IX, will seek voluntary compliance from the institution and negotiate appropriate remedies. If they cannot secure voluntary compliance, they can refer the case to the Department of Justice for court action, or begin proceedings to end the institution’s federal funding.
You may wish to use the institution’s internal grievance procedures, but you are not required to do so before initiating an OCR complaint.
Whether or not you choose to file an OCR complaint, you can also bring a private lawsuit against the educational institution. If your suit is successful, you may be eligible for a number of different types of compensation, including compensatory damages and attorney’s fees. There are various rules about how quickly you must do this after the discriminatory event, so it makes sense to sort these out with an attorney.
If you think you may have suffered discrimination under Title IX, it is important that you seek prompt legal advice. For a confidential discussion of your legal options, contact us on +1 (212) 433-3456, or fill out our contact form.