ACLU Applauds Supreme Court Decision Protecting Whistleblowers Who Report Sex Discrimination
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON--The American Civil Liberties Union today hailed a Supreme Court ruling that people who report sex discrimination in public schools or other federally funded programs are protected against retaliation under the federal Title IX anti-discrimination law.
"Civil rights laws cannot be enforced if civil rights whistleblowers are left unprotected," said Steven R. Shapiro, Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in the case. "Today's decision properly recognizes that Congress did not intend that result when it enacted Title IX, and that penalizing someone who reports discrimination is itself an act of discrimination."
At issue in Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education was whether Title IX protections would apply to Roderick Jackson, a high school physical education teacher who lost his position as coach of the girls' basketball team after he complained to school officials that his team did not get equal treatment with the boys. Jackson sued the Birmingham Board of Education over his lost job, stating that he had been fired because he spoke up about the discrimination. Today's Supreme Court decision overturns previous district and appeals court rulings that Jackson was not protected against retaliation under Title IX, the 1972 law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs.
"Retaliation against a person because that person has complained of sex discrimination is another form of intentional sex discrimination encompassed by Title IX's private cause of action," said the Court in a 5-4 majority opinion authored by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. "Reporting incidents of discrimination is integral to Title IX enforcement and would be discouraged if retaliation against those who report went unpunished. Indeed, if retaliation were not prohibited, Title IX's enforcement scheme would unravel."
The Court's ruling paves the way for Jackson to proceed with his civil lawsuit against the Birmingham Board of Education, charging that his former employers violated his rights under Title IX.
The ACLU noted that Congress and the Supreme Court have repeatedly recognized that effective civil rights enforcement demands protection for those who report civil rights violations, including Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.
"Today's Supreme Court ruling sends a very strong message that sex discrimination will not be tolerated in public schools," said Lenora M. Lapidus, Director of the ACLU Women's Rights Project. "Title IX is crucial in ensuring equality in education for girls and women."
The ACLU filed its brief on behalf of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a coalition of more than 180 national organizations committed to the protection of civil and human rights in the United States.
A copy of the decision is available at: http://scotus.ap.org/scotus/03-855p.zo.pdf.
For more information on the advocacy and legal work of the ACLU Women's Rights Project, go to /womensrights/index.html.