A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that college employees can sue their institutions for intentional gender-based employment discrimination under Title IX.

The opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned a lower court’s 2020 decision dismissing a former professor’s lawsuit against Cornell University. The lower court judge had rejected Mukund Vengalattore’s assertions that Cornell violated a raft of federal and state laws when it disciplined him in response to allegations that he had an inappropriate relationship with a teaching assistant.

A three-judge panel of the Second Circuit upheld much of the lower court’s ruling but overturned its conclusion that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs, does not authorize a private right of action for discrimination in employment. Most federal employment discrimination claims against colleges and universities are brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, but claims can be brought sooner under Title IX, and that law does not cap damages.

“We hold that Title IX allows a private right of action for a university’s intentional gender-based discrimination against a faculty member, and that Vengalattore’s Title IX claim should not have been dismissed on the ground that he complained of such discrimination with respect to employment,” the Second Circuit ruled.

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