In a narrow 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision hailed by women’s sports advocates, a 5-4 majority ruled that individuals who protest sex discrimination can seek damages if their colleges or schools retaliate against them for speaking up in the name of Title IX. The case settled a much-disputed debate about whether the 1972 law mandating gender equity in institutions receiving federal funds includes a right for whistle blowers facing retaliation to sue and, by so doing, the law’s supporters argued, opened the way for greater reporting and enforcement.
Officials at California State University at Fresno may be ruing that ruling this week, after a jury handed down a staggering $5.85 million award Monday to a women’s volleyball coach who alleged just such retaliation for her efforts to ensure gender equity in sports on campus, along with discrimination on the basis of her gender and perceived sexual orientation. Although individuals can’t sue public institutions in California for punitive damages, Linda L. Vivas was awarded damages for past and future economic losses and emotional distress.
“My impression is that Fresno State was seen by this jury and, I think, rightfully so, as kind of an outlaw in terms of Title IX,” said Dan Siegel, the lawyer for Vivas, whose contract as Fresno State’s women’s volleyball coach was not renewed in late 2004. “Over the course of a dozen years,” Siegel said of Vivas, hired in 1991, “there were at least a dozen battles in which she was on the front line in gender equity issues.”
“We’re 35 years after Title IX was passed and Fresno State still doesn’t get it,” Siegel said. . . .
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Viva Vivas! And Long Live Title IX!
From Inside Higher Ed: