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Title IX & Student Conduct Code Blog

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Title IX Discrimination Claims Brought by College Employees

The University of Iowa recently agreed to a landmark settlement in a Title IX sex discrimination case brought by two former employees—Jane Meyer, who worked as an athletic administrator for 13 years, and her partner, Tracey Griesbaum, who worked as the coach for the women’s field hockey team for 14 years. The women had two separate claims against the school that arose from employment actions taken against each of them.

Meyer’s sex discrimination claims stem from 2014, when the male athletic director transferred many of her responsibilities to a new position in the athletics department. Meyer was informed she wasn’t qualified enough for the new position, which was given to a male whose starting salary was $70,000 more than what Meyer earned. When Meyer complained about the apparent sex discrimination, she was transferred out of the athletics department the very next day. She claims that she was clearly removed from her position in retaliation for her discrimination complaints. Her new position was later eliminated and the university laid Meyer off.

Griesbaum’s claims also stem from 2014, when she was suddenly fired from her position as field hockey coach. Though Iowa claimed it had received complaints from her players, the players then filed their own Title IX claim against the school for firing their beloved coach. Griesbaum claimed wrongful termination based on sex discrimination.

In early May, a jury awarded Meyer $1.43 million without yet deciding attorney’s fees or possible punitive damages. Griesbaum’s case was still pending and had been set for trial on June 5th. However, the university then agreed to settle the cases with both women and will pay out the following:

  • $2.33 million to Meyer
  • $1.49 million to Griesbaum
  • $2.68 million in attorney’s fees for both

While the settlement agreement effectively ends the claims from both women against the university, it doesn’t end the ongoing investigation regarding the field hockey athletes’ Title IX claims regarding Griesbaum’s termination. That Department of Education investigation will continue.

Title IX Does Not Only Protect Students

The above victory clearly demonstrates that Title IX not only protects the rights of college students against sex discrimination, but it also protects school employees. The Department of Justice provides guidance, which explains that Title IX and Title VII overlap in the context of claims brought by employees of federally-funded schools and that employees can use both laws to protect their rights against employment discrimination. Title IX clearly prohibits sex discrimination against employees or prospective employees in all of the following:

  • Recruitment
  • Assignments
  • Classification
  • Evaluations
  • Payment
  • Benefits
  • Treatment
  • Retention
  • Termination

Still, Title IX discrimination claims are not simple, as schools will often try to provide pretextual reasons for a transfer, termination, or another type of disparate treatment—such as what the University of Iowa did in Griesbaum’s case.

Disagreement Among Federal Courts

Another potential hurdle in Title IX discrimination claims brought by employees is that not all of the federal court circuits agree that employees should bring claims under Title IX instead of Title VII. For example, the Fifth Circuit has held that employees should only bring such claims under Title VII and the Seventh Circuit has agreed. On the other hand, the Third Circuit recently sided with the Fourth and Second Circuits that Title IX was a valid option. Such hurdles are not insurmountable with the right Title IX representation, however.

Learn How a Connecticut Title IX discrimination Attorney Can Help You

The legal team at the firm of Duffy Law has the unique experience that allows it to understand the inner workings of colleges and especially collegiate athletic departments. Our firm regularly represents clients in Title IX matters involving wrongful sex discrimination. We are ready to help you hold educational institutions accountable for violating your rights and the law. If you believe your rights under Title IX have been compromised, please don’t hesitate to call us at any time at 203-946-2000 for more information about how we can protect your rights.

Felice Duffy

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Attorney At Duffy Law

Attorney Felice Duffy served as an Assistant United States Attorney for ten years after beginning her legal career at two prestigious firms (one in CT and one in NY) and then clerking for two federal judges. A life-long Title IX advocate, she brought a legal action under the then-new Title IX statute against UCONN while an undergraduate to compel the creation of its women’s varsity soccer program. She went on to become a first-team Division I All-American, was selected to be on the first U.S. National Women’s Team, and spent 10 years as Head Coach of the Yale women's soccer team. Attorney Duffy has Ph.D. in Education/Sports Psychology and has spoken to, and conducted trainings for, over 50 schools and organizations on a wide range of topics involving athletics, the law, and social justice. You can reach Felice at (203) 946-2000.