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Both Title VII and Title IX Available for University Workplace Sex Discrimination 

Both Title VII and Title IX Available for Workplace Sex Discrimination 

People can now sue under both Title VII and Title IX for sex bias claims. Both Title VII and Title IX are used to combat discrimination. Title VII protects from discrimination in the workplace and Title IX covers education activities and institutions.

Plaintiff Micki Harrington claimed in her lawsuit that she was subjected to sexual harassment and pay discrimination in violation of both statutes. The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts decided this in the case of Harrington v. Lesley University

What happened in the Harrington case? 

Harrington started working for Lesley University as a temporary art librarian in August of 2016, reporting directly to the dean of university libraries. Harrington reported directly to the dean of libraries, Hedi BenAicha. 

Hedi BenAicha promised her before she received her position that she would receive certain benefits and that after a probationary period, he should be promoted and receive a raise. However, this never happened, and her pay actually decreased. Additionally, Harrington claimed that BenAicha subjected her to physical and verbal sexual harassment. 

Typically, only one statute is used as the basis of a lawsuit, however, the court found that there is a significant difference between the statutes and that they afford two separate federal rights, each with a distinct scope and an independent end, not to separate remedies addressing the same harm. 

 The majority of Title XI employment claims have agreed that Title IX protects employees from discrimination. The law is clear on this idea. A Title IX process at a college or university does not toll the statute of limitations at Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination for employment discrimination claims under Title VII of the state anti-discrimination law. 

This means that if an employee would like to resolve their claims internally at school, they may not be able to wait and see that process through before they are required to file a lawsuit at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination to preserve their claims. This means that schools can sit on complaints and force the employee into a situation where they wither miss their statute of limitations or have to start litigation without seeing if they can resolve the issues internally. 

Title VII and Title IX can overlap. In this case, the court found that Harrington did have a private cause of action under Title IX. The courts have never explicitly limited Title IX’s coverage to students but have recognized sex discrimination in the education environment since its enactment. The judge in Harrington’s case found that Title VII and Title IX are separate enforcement mechanisms, either or both of which an individual may use to challenge sex-based employment discrimination in a federally funded educational program. 

This is a huge success for victims of harassment as now there is more than one option for recovery. 

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