Pros and Cons of Filing a Title IX Lawsuit

What are the pros and cons of filing a Title IX lawsuit?

Pros

  • The victim has more control over the suit in contrast to a complaint filed with the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education. For example, in a lawsuit a victim can request for a certain type of relief from the court. In an Office of Civil Rights complaint proceeding, however, the Office of Civil Rights can negotiate with the school on how it can comply with Title IX without any input from the victim.
  • It is possible for a lawsuit to provide immediate relief such as injunctive relief.
  • Lawsuits can provide more types of relief in comparison to a Title IX complaint with the Office of Civil Rights. For example, the Office of Civil Rights cannot force a school to spend money to address sexual harassment while a victim can receive compensation if his or her Title IX lawsuit is successful.
  • A favorable lawsuit outcome can be effective setting precedent and deterring schools from violating Title IX more so than a complaint filed with the Office of Civil Rights. The outcome of the Office of Civil Rights cases are specific to a particular school, while a lawsuit’s precedent can be binding to all schools who are covered by Title IX.
  • If the outcome of a lawsuit is unfavorable, a victim has the opportunity to file an appeal and have a higher level court review the case. While the Office of Civil Rights allows appeals for Title IX complaints, a case will only be reviewed once and the decision of the appeal will be final. For lawsuits, the hierarchy of federal courts allows victims more than one opportunity to file an appeal (however, after the first appeal a court has discretion to dismiss subsequent ones).
  • Most lawsuits do not go to trial and end with both parties settling. This can be beneficial for the victim because they will receive some form of compensation from the school.
  • A victim has more time to file a Title IX lawsuit than filing a Title IX complaint with the Office of Civil Rights. Office of Civil Rights complaints need to be filed within 180 days after the victim suffered discrimination. In contrast, the deadline for a lawsuit (while it varies by the state in which the school is located) typically ranges from 1 year to 6 years.

Cons

  • In general, lawsuits can take a very long time (even years).
  • Lawsuits can be expensive because of court filing fees and attorney fees. While a successful lawsuit can result in the victim not having to pay attorney fees, if the lawsuit is unsuccessful, then the victim could be forced to cover the costs. Unlike Title IX lawsuits, filing a Title IX complaint with the Office of Civil Rights is free.
  • Only the victim (or the victim’s parents if they are under 18) can file the suit. For Title IX complaints with the Office of Civil Rights, anyone can file a complaint without having a direct stake in the claim.
  • What a victim has to prove during a lawsuit can be harder than what a victim has to prove in an Office of Civil Rights complaint. For a Title IX lawsuit, the victim will have to show that the school had actual knowledge of the sexual harassment and deliberately ignored it. For an Office of Civil Rights complaint, a victim does not have to prove actual knowledge.
  • Judges presiding over a Title IX lawsuit will likely not have the same Title IX expertise as an employee from the Office of Civil Rights presiding over a Title IX complaint.
  • Title IX lawsuits generally attract media attention which can negatively impact a victim’s privacy.
  • If the outcome of a Title IX lawsuit is unfavorable to the school, the school may file an appeal which could lead to an unfavorable result for the victim.
  • If the court decides a victim’s Title IX lawsuit is frivolous, they may have to provide money to the school (such as paying for some of the school’s lawsuit costs).
  • Perpetrators will not necessarily face justice.

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.