Lawsuit Against New York College Alleges Sexual Harassment Under Title IX

Several lawsuits allege sexual harassment and other claims against a small private college in New York and various school officials and employees. K. Doe v. Ludwigsen, et al., No. 7:15-cv-07822, am. complaint (S.D.N.Y., Oct. 27, 2015); E. Doe v. Ludwigsen, et al., No. 7:15-cv-07825, am. complaint (S.D.N.Y., Oct. 27, 2015); A. Doe v. Ludwigsen, et al., No. 7:15-cv-07827, am. complaint (S.D.N.Y., Oct. 27, 2015). The sexual harassment claims are brought under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq., which deals with sex discrimination in education. The claims are similar to those brought under federal, state, or New York City laws regarding sexual harassment in employment.

The term “Title IX” typically refers to educational reforms first enacted by Congress in 1972, commonly known as the “Education Amendments of 1972.” Pub. L. 92-213, 86 Stat. 235. This should not be confused with the the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which addresses discrimination in employment in Title VII. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Title IX of that statute deals with the removal of discrimination claims from state to federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d), 78 Stat. 266.

Title IX prohibits various forms of discrimination on the basis of sex in higher education. 20 U.S.C. § 1681. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the statute authorizes private causes of action for damages in Franklin v. Gwinnett Co. Pub. Sch., 503 U.S. 60 (1992). Sexual harassment in the workplace, the court has found, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986). Applying the same reasoning, it held that sexual harassment by a teacher towards a student violates Title IX. Gebser v. Lago Vista Indep. Sch. Dist., 524 U.S. 274, 281 (1998). The court also ruled, however, that a school or school board is only liable if the plaintiff proves “actual notice and deliberate indifference” on the part of school officials. Id. at 292-93. The same standard also applies to Title IX claims for sexual harassment between students. Davis v. Monroe Co. Bd. of Ed., 526 U.S. 629 (1999).

The plaintiffs are current or former students of a small college in Rockland County. All were members of the school’s women’s softball team. Each complaint alleges sexual harassment and other unlawful actions by the head coach of the team. The coach allegedly “exert[ed]…a tremendous level of control over [team] members,” K. Doe, am. complaint at 7, requiring them to attend nightly study halls and restricting their contact with people outside of the team. The complaints allege sexual comments, advances, and unwanted contact by the coach. He also allegedly required team members to attend one or more meetings with a pornographic actress. One complaint states that, rather than offering “career and life advice,” the coach “offered to help Team members pursue careers in the adult entertainment industry.” Id. at 9.

Each complaint alleges eight causes of action, including Title IX claims for violation of rights and retaliation, and common-law claims for negligent hiring, supervision, and retention against the college. They assert claims against all defendants, including the college, the coach, and various college officials, for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Finally, each complaint asserts a claim for battery against the coach.

The sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates represent current, former, and prospective employees in the New York City area. We help our clients assert claims under city, state, and federal laws for sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and other unlawful workplace practices. Contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team.

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Sexual Harassment Lawsuits, Investigations Target State of New York, State Legislators, and Legislative Staffers, New York Employment Attorney Blog, November 10, 2015

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New Harvard University Policy Demonstrates a Different Side of Sexual Harassment Law, New York Employment Attorney Blog, April 8, 2015

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