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On September 7, 2023, NWLC joined an amicus brief led by Public Justice explaining that graduate students can be both employees and students—and therefore can be covered by both Title VII and Title IX’s protections against sex harassment.
This case is about a graduate student, Meng Huang, whose supervisor sexually harassed her while she was a mechanical engineering PhD student and employee of The Ohio State University. Consistent with her dual roles, Ms. Huang brought claims under both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination in schools. The district court, however, wrongly assumed that Ms. Huang could not simultaneously be a student and an employee protected by both laws.
Our brief argues that courts should look to the reality of the student’s relationship to the university to determine whether a graduate student is also an employee and therefore covered by Title VII—and shouldn’t defer to schools’ classifications of their graduate students. As the brief points out, this issue has significant implications for many graduate students, because Title VII offers more expansive protections and remedies than Title IX. A graduate student wrongly classified as only a student could, therefore, be deprived of any legal recourse.