Discrimination in Education: Do You Have a Title IX claim, a Title VII claim, or Can You Bring Both?

April 22, 2024
title vii

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) both act to prevent discrimination. While Title VII governs employment relationships; Title IX applies in education settings. The question arises as to whether an employee in an education setting must bring their discrimination claim under Title VII and whether they are thereby preempted from bringing a claim under Title IX. While the Supreme Court has ruled that Title IX does not preclude a § 1983 action alleging unconstitutional gender discrimination in schools, it has not ruled on the issue of whether Title VII precludes a Title IX claim.

Title IX Protections for Employees

While Title IX is commonly associated with safeguarding students, particularly concerning issues like sexual assault, its protections extend to employees within colleges, universities, and other educational settings.

Beyond the classroom, Title IX shields employees engaged in educational activities and programs, even those not directly affiliated with educational institutions. This coverage includes individuals working as interns or in settings like hospitals or academic medical centers. Both employees and students possess the right to pursue legal action to seek damages for Title IX violations.

Crucially, Title IX applies to all educational programs and activities receiving any form of federal funding, including federal student loans.

Title VII Protections for Employees

Title VII serves as a crucial shield against discrimination across various employment settings. Its mandates extend to government entities, educational institutions, and private employers with 15 or more employees.

Among the protected factors outlined in the statute, “sex” stands out prominently, encompassing additional aspects like pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity based on contemporary interpretations.

The scope of prohibited discriminatory actions under Title VII is comprehensive. It not only prohibits deliberate acts of discrimination but also addresses practices that, regardless of intent, result in discriminatory outcomes. This encompasses decisions rooted in stereotypes or assumptions, instances of harassment, and the denial of employment opportunities due to marital or relationship status.

Unlike Title IX, which primarily focuses on sex-based discrimination within educational contexts, Title VII’s purview extends across a broader spectrum, encompassing discrimination based on various factors beyond sex and covering employment matters beyond those directly tied to educational pursuits.

Extent of Employee Protections

Under both Title VII and Title IX, discrimination is expressly forbidden across various facets of employment, including:

  • Recruitment and hiring processes.
  • Termination decisions.
  • Determination of compensation and job classifications.
  • Layoff procedures.
  • Utilization of company facilities.
  • Transfer opportunities.
  • Promotion criteria.
  • Training programs and apprenticeships.
  • Transfer opportunities.
  • Access to benefits and retirement plans.

Essentially, any aspect or benefit tied to employment must be administered impartially, devoid of biases based on sex or other safeguarded characteristics.

The Circuit Split: Differences in Interpretation

Fifth and Seventh Circuits

Thus far, only the Fifth Circuit and the Seventh Circuit have taken the stance that Title VII preempts the ability to bring a Title IX claim for an employment discrimination claim. The Fifth Circuit has previously stated:

“Given this compelling evidence that Title IX prohibits the same employment practices proscribed by Title VII, we hold that individuals seeking money damages for employment discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded educational institutions may not assert Title IX either directly or derivatively through § 1983.”

The Fifth Circuit continued on to note that they were “not persuaded that Congress offers Title IX to employees of federally funded educational institutions so as to provide a bypass to Title VII’s administrative procedures.” The Seventh Circuit has similarly held that employment discrimination claims must be brought under Title VII, not Title IX.

First, Third, Fourth, and Sixth Circuits

In contrast, the First, Third, Fourth, and Sixth Circuits have all allowed both Title VII and Title IX claims to be brought for employment discrimination claims.

For example, in Farzinpour v. Berklee College of Music, the First Circuit ruled that Title VII does not preempt employment-discrimination claims brought under Title IX. Similarly, in  Doe v. Mercy Catholic Med. Ctr., the Third Circuit declined to follow the Fifth and Seventh Circuit’s holdings that Title VII provides the exclusive remedy for individuals alleging employment discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded educational institutions. The Fourth Circuit held in Preston v. Comm. of Va. ex rel. New River Cmty. Coll., that a private right of action separate from Title VII exists under Title IX for employment discrimination. Lastly, the Sixth Circuit stated in Ivan v. Kent State Univ., that it overrules the previous opinion from the Northern District of Ohio, which held that Title VII preempts an individual’s private remedy under Title IX.

Takeaways on the Circuit Split

As noted by the Second Circuit in Summa v. Hofstra Univ., the U.S. Department of Justice has taken “the position that that Title IX and Title VII are separate enforcement mechanisms. Individuals can use both statutes to attack the same violations.” The Department has found this view to be “consistent with the Supreme Court’s decisions on Title IX’s coverage of employment discrimination, as well as the different constitutional bases for Title IX and Title VII.” For now though, the Fifth Circuit and Seventh Circuit still maintain the position that employment discrimination claims must be brought under Title VII, not Title IX.

Differences in Bringing a Title IX Claim vs. a Title VII Claim

To understand the question of why this matters, it is important to look at the procedural requirements of Title VII as compared to Title IX, as well as the monetary remedies available for both claims.

Title VII Title IX
Individuals must file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 or 300 days (depending on the state) of the alleged discriminatory act. In Ohio, if you wish for the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) to act on your behalf, you must file within 180 days and you can cross-file with the EEOC as well. Title VII recognizes the applicability of the “continuing violation doctrine,” which can extend the limitations period to bring a claim.


Individuals may file complaints directly with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) or pursue administrative remedies through their educational institution. If you do choose to file your complaint with OCR, it must be filed within 180 days.
Following their filing, they must receive a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC, indicating that the agency has completed its investigation and provided the individual with the option to proceed with a lawsuit.


While it is advisable to file as soon as possible after the alleged discrimination occurs, there is no statutory deadline for filing complaints with the OCR and there are no administrative remedies that must be exhausted first.


The statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit in federal court is typically 90 days from the date of receiving the right-to-sue letter.


If individuals choose to file a lawsuit in federal court to enforce their rights under Title IX, they must comply with the applicable statute of limitations for personal injury claims in their jurisdiction (typically, two or three years after the alleged claim occurred).


Based on the size of the employer, compensatory and punitive damages are statutorily capped on a sliding scale.


Compensatory damages are not capped. However, punitive damages are not available.



Understanding the differences in bringing Title IX and Title VII claims is essential for individuals seeking to bring discrimination claims in an educational employment setting. While both statutes aim to address similar forms of discrimination, there are distinct remedies available and timing requirements to consider. Educational institutions should take note of where their Circuit falls on the issue of whether Title VII preempts Title IX claims.

Working with an Attorney Who Understands Title IX and Title VII

When an employee seeks to pursue a claim for sex-based discrimination under either Title VII or Title IX, it’s essential to collaborate with legal counsel proficient in both statutes. Comprehending how these laws interact can significantly impact the selection of procedural avenues and ultimately lead to the most favorable resolution.

At KJK, our Student & Athlete Defense attorneys possess the skill and knowledge necessary to navigate these complexities adeptly. Contact our office today at 216.696.8700.