Women and Justice: Court: United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

Domestic Case Law

Doe v. Hagenbeck United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (2015)

Gender discrimination, Gender-based violence in general, Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape

The plaintiff is a female former cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where she claimed that she was forced to resign after her third year due to rampant sexual hostility. In May 2010, she was raped while at West Point after she took sleeping pills and she also cites several other instances of sexual assault and harassment, claiming that members the Sexual Assault Review Board at West Point failed to punish the perpetrators. The District Court found that the plaintiff had properly stated an equal protection claim under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, affording women the same protections under the law as men. The District Court also found that hearing the claim was not precluded by Feres Doctrine, which typically bars tort claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act and constitutional claims against superior officers incident to military service, since the rape was not a service-related injury and hearing the claim would not compromise the legislative or executive functions of government, including the disciplinary role of the Executive Branch over the nation's military. Therefore, the court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss.



Ericson v. Syracuse Univ. United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (1999)

Sexual harassment

Ms. Ericson and Ms. Kornechuk brought an action against Syracuse University and its employees under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. section 1681 (“Title IX”) and the Violence Against Women Act, 42 U.S.C. section 13981 (“VAWA”). Plaintiffs alleged that they were sexually harassed by their tennis coach, and that the University was aware of the tennis coach’s behavior and conducted a sham investigatory proceeding to conceal the extent of the tennis coach’s misconduct, which had occurred for more than twenty years. Defendants moved to dismiss the claims. They contended that Title IX did not provide a private right of action and the VAWA claim was barred by the statue of limitations. The court held that there was a private right of action under Title IX pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Gebser v. Lago Vista Indep. Sch. Dist. (1998). Erickson held that a student who has been sexually harassed by an employee of an institution may bring suit against the institution, under Title IX, for private damages if: (1) the institution has authority to institute corrective measures on its behalf; (2) has actual notice of the behavior; and (3) is deliberately indifferent to its employee’s misconduct. The court found that Plaintiffs’ complaint, on its face, satisfied that standard because it alleged the individuals who investigated the charges against the tennis coach not only had actual notice that the tennis coach had been harassing female student-athletes for twenty years but had also conspired to conduct a sham investigation to conceal the full extent of the coach’s misconduct. The court reasoned that the allegation that the institution knew of the 13 of female-athletes and did not respond adequately was sufficient to state a claim under Title IX. The court also held that the statute of limitations did not bar the Plaintiffs’ claim under the VAWA. VAWA provides a civil cause of action to victims of gender-motivated crimes of violence. It does not contain an express statute of limitations. Accordingly, the court found that it should look to the “most appropriate or analogous state statute of limitations.” The court reasoned that Congress’ stated purpose, in enacting this law, was to “protect the civil rights of victims of gender motivated violence by establishing a federal civil rights cause of action.” Because of Congress’ stated purpose, the court found that the cause of action that was most analogous to VAWA was a personal injury claim, and as such, a three-year statute of limitations should apply. Thus, Plaintiffs’ claim under VAWA was not barred by the statue of limitations because the alleged acts of violence occurred within three years from when Plaintiffs filed their complaint.



Melani v. Bd. of Higher Educ., United States United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (1983)

Gender discrimination

Plaintiffs sued the board of trustees of the City University of New York (“CUNY”), alleging that CUNY discriminated against its female professors because it paid them less than its male professors, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. section 2000e (“Title VII”). As evidence, Plaintiffs provided statistics about the faculty’s pay that demonstrated that the female professors were paid less. Defendant argued in response that the female staff were paid less based on merit, specifically because women devoted more time to child-rearing, had fewer publications, and worked in academic fields for which the market demand was less. The court found that Defendant failed to successfully counter Plaintiffs’ claim because its testimony was little more than generalizations: its evidence did not relate to the CUNY female faculty and did not explain the salary disparity between the male and female faculty. Thus, the court found that Defendant violated Title VII by paying Plaintiffs a lower salary because of their sex.