Filing a Title IX Lawsuit
Under Title IX, a sexual harassment victim can file a private lawsuit at a federal court if their college is not complying with its Title IX obligations. You can file a Title IX lawsuit without filing a prior complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). You can also file a lawsuit after filing a complaint with the OCR; the outcome of the complaint does not affect your ability to file a Title IX lawsuit.
Who can file a Title IX lawsuit?
Individuals are allowed to file a Title IX complaint with the OCR on behalf of sexual harassment victims. This, however, does not apply to Title IX lawsuits. Only a victim of sexual harassment, or the parents of the victim if they are is below the age of 18, can file a lawsuit.
How do you file a Title IX lawsuit?
To a file a lawsuit, you must do so through an attorney or, for those who do not have an attorney, through a federal court’s pro se clerk’s office.
For legal assistance, you can contact one of the following organizations which have experience with Title IX litigation:
- Legal Momentum works to expand legal rights and services for victims of gender-based violence. You can contact Legal Momentum’s helpline at titleix[AT]legalmomentum[DOT]org or (212) 925-6635, ext. 650.
- Public Justice is a national public interest law firm that uses precedent-setting litigation to fight injustice and right wrongs. It has worked on numerous sexual assault-related Title IX cases for decades, and also handles cases involving bullying and harassment, including gender-based harassment. You can contact the organization for legal assistance by phone at (202) 797-8600 or by email at caseintake[at]publicjustice[dot]net.
- The Victims Rights Law Center practices in Massachusetts and Oregon but can provide technical assistance and referrals elsewhere. You can contact the VRLC by phone at 617-399-6720 x19 or at their web address here.
- The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) does legal advocacy work in Title IX cases. Each state has a local affiliate. You can find your local affiliate to obtain legal assistance here.
- Legal Voice is a women’s rights advocacy organization that provides legal assistance for Title IX. The organization can also be contacted for legal information about Title IX and filing a lawsuit.
There are also organizations that can provide you a referral for an attorney specializing in Title IX cases:
- The American Bar association has a referral service in each state, specified by county (http://apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/lris/directory/)
- School Violence Law has worked on a number of Title IX cases and provides free consultations, including attorney referrals. You can contact the firm at (877) 927-4321.
Useful Information for Your Attorney
Before meeting with an attorney, make sure you have information about your college’s Title IX violations. This can include a list of examples of noncompliance. Also, thorough documentation is critical for a lawsuit. Make sure you have copies and records of interviews, meetings, letters, and any complaints that have been filed with the OCR (if you have filed a complaint) and/or with your college. If you have been in communication with any administrators at your college, make sure you document any communications (phone calls, letters, emails, and texts). For example, following a meeting with a college administrator, it can be helpful to send an email memorializing the content of your conversation.
Is there a time limit for filing a Title IX lawsuit?
Yes, all federal courts have a time limit for when you can file a Title IX lawsuit. The time limit depends on the state in which your college is located and what the state has determined to be the “statute of limitations” for Title IX cases: this ranges from about one year to six years.
What are the available remedies for a Title IX lawsuit?
If the court decides a college has violated Title IX, the most common remedies available are injunctive relief, monetary compensation and attorney’s fees. When the court grants injunctive relief, the college is commanded to perform or prevent an action — this relief aims to rectify the problematic conduct that led to the Title IX violations. If you are the victim of sexual harassment, you do not have to prove that your college had actual knowledge of the harassment to be awarded injunctive relief. Even if you have already graduated from college by the time the court decides to grant injunctive relief, it can still be ordered as long as there is a group of students that would still be positively affected by the injunctive relief. A court may consider not issuing injunctive relief if the school proves that there is no reasonable expectation that the violation will occur again.
If you are a victim of sexual harassment, you can also receive money damages (compensation) if you can prove that your college intentionally did not comply with its Title IX obligations. This means that you must show that your college knew of the harassment and was deliberately indifferent to it.
Further, if your Title IX lawsuit is successful, the court can order compensation for your attorney’s fees (the charges for legal services).
Sometimes, the court will order a college produce a compliance plan that will outline the steps it must take to rectify the Title IX violations. The court then monitors the school to make sure it undertakes these steps.
Although these resources have been written with the guidance of legal experts, we are not lawyers, and the information on this website does not constitute legal advice. We encourage you to contact a lawyer to discuss your complaint or suit.