Instructor at Federally-Funded School Had Exclusive Remedy for Sexual Harassment Under Title VII, Not Title IX, Court Rules

In Gayle v. Children’s Aid College Prep Charter School et al, 18-cv-9874, 2019 WL 3759097 (SDNY July 29, 2019), the court dismissed the sexual harassment claim of plaintiff – an employee of a federally-funded educational institution – brought under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, finding that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides the exclusive remedy for such claims.

From the decision:

An overwhelming majority of district courts in this Circuit have found that an implied private right of action does not exists under Title IX for employees alleging gender discrimination in the terms and conditions of their employment.3 The small minority of district courts that have found otherwise argue that the Supreme Court’s decisions in Cannon and Bell, read together, support the proposition that there is an additional implied cause of action for employment discrimination under Title IX for employees of educational institutions receiving federal funds. See e.g., Henschke v. N.Y. Hospital-Cornell Med. Cetr, 821 F. Supp. 166, 172 (S.D.N.Y. 1993). However, as the Fifth Circuit explained in Lakoski v. James, when Title IX was enacted, Congress had recently amended Title VII to remove language exempting its application to educational institutions. See Gardner v. St. Bonaventure Univ., 171 F. Supp. 2d 118, 127–28 (N.D.N.Y. 2001) (citing 66 F.3d 751, 757 (5th Cir. 1995)). Relatedly, Congress omitted language from Title IX that would have amended Title VII in this way.4 Id. This signals that Congress intended Title VII, and not Title IX, to cover employment discrimination claims by employees of educational institutions.

*6 Moreover, courts in this circuit have identified two additional compelling reasons why Title VII offers the exclusive remedy for employment discrimination based on sex for employees of federally-funded educational institutions. First, when Congress passed Title VII, it intended it “to provide an exclusive avenue of relief except for remedies which were already in existence at its enactment.” Burrell v. City Univ. of N.Y., 995 F. Supp. 398, 409–10 (citing Storey v. Bd. of Regents, 604 F. Supp. 1200, 1201 (W.D. Wis. 1985) (emphasis added)). Accordingly, courts should not assume that Congress intended to offer additional remedies for employment discrimination under Title IX, which is subsequent to Title VII. See Vega v. State Univ. of N.Y. Bd. of Trustees, No. 97 Civ. 5767, 2000 WL 381430, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 13, 2000) (“Title IX does not provide a private right of action for employment discrimination plaintiffs because, since Title VII predated Title IX, Congress intended Title VII to provide an exclusive avenue of relief except for remedies already in existence at the time of its enactment.”).

More importantly, unlike Title IX, Title VII requires plaintiffs to exhaust administrative remedies with the EEOC before they can sue for employment discrimination in federal court. See e.g. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1) (requiring plaintiffs to file a charge with the EEOC “within one hundred and eighty days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred”); see also Summa, 708 F.3d at 131 (“Title VII provides an administrative procedure by which an individual claiming harassment or retaliation must first pursue administrative remedies before the EEOC prior to seeking judicial relief … while Title IX does not.” (citations omitted)); Philpott v. New York, 252 F.Supp.3d 313, 318 (S.D.N.Y. 2017) (“Title VII imposes an administrative exhaustion requirement that is absent from Title IX.”). Therefore, “allowing employees to sue for discrimination under Title IX would enable many federal employees to bypass the remedial process that Congress established under Title VII.