A federal court in New York State has ruled that the male head coach of the women’s basketball team at Fordham University can successfully file a Title IX complaint against his employer.
The court found specifically that there is “a prohibition of discrimination against (a) plaintiff on the basis of the sex of the players whom he coached. 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a),” irrespective of the plaintiff’s gender.
The court, however, granted the university’s motion to dismiss other aspects of the plaintiff’s complaint, namely alleged violations of the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. 206(d), as well as various common law claims.
In early 2003, plaintiff Kevin Morris filed a complaint that alleged disparate treatment and disparate impact in relation to allegedly inferior resources and opportunities available for the women’s basketball team in comparison to the men’s basketball team. Specifically, he alleged that the defendant subjected him to “disproportionate funding for the women’s basketball team, both individually (salary and benefits), as a women’s basketball coach, and collectively (assistant coaches, equipment, uniforms, supplies, recruitment funds, team travel, post-season opportunities, and tutoring).”
In addition, he alleged that the defendant breached a contract with him by terminating him prior to the end date of his contract, and by failing to provide plaintiff with a promised long term contract.
On June 13, 2003, defendant moved to dismiss the complaint, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) and Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Addressing Title IX first, the court wrote that the defendant’s argument centered on the contention that the plaintiff “lacks standing for his Title IX claim, on the grounds that plaintiff seeks, in part, to adjudicate the interests of third parties, namely former members of the Fordham women’s basketball team.”
While agreeing with the defendant that the plaintiff lacks standing to bring a claim on behalf of the program, Valley Forge Christian Coll. v. Ams. United for Separation of Church & State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 474, 102 S. Ct. 752, 70 L. Ed. 2d 700 (1982) (quoting Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 499, 95 S. Ct. 2197, 45 L. Ed. 2d 343 (1975)), the court disagreed with the defendant about the ramifications of that conclusion.
“Neither the Supreme Court nor the Second Circuit has resolved the question whether Title IX provides a cause of action to employees of federally funded educational programs who bring claims of sex discrimination against their employers,” it wrote.
“We are also unpersuaded by defendant’s argument that dismissal of plaintiff’s Title IX claim is required because the claim is premised not on plaintiff’s gender, but on the gender of the students he coached. The prohibition of discrimination ‘on the basis of sex’ is broad enough to encompass a prohibition of discrimination against plaintiff on the basis of the sex of the players whom he coached. 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a).”
Turning to the Equal Pay Act claim, the plaintiff asked the court to give him “protective status under the Equal Pay Act as the holder of a traditionally female position who associates with female athletes.”
The defendant argued in its motion that plaintiff’s claim must fail “because he does not compare himself to any other similarly situated employee who is female. Defendant also argues that plaintiff’s associational claim finds no support in the law.”
The court agreed, finding that “the identification of a comparator employed by the same employer and of the opposite gender is an indispensable requirement for a plaintiff bringing an Equal Pay Act Claim. Plaintiff’s claim rests upon alleged disparities between his wage and that of another male coach. As a matter of law, this will not suffice, and plaintiff’s Equal Pay Act claim is therefore dismissed.” Morris v. Fordham University, S.D.N.Y., No. 03 Civ. 0556 (CBM), 4/28/04
Attorneys of Record: (for plaintiff) Peter J. Cresci of Cresci & Black LLC, Bayonne, NJ.