AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund

AAUW’s Legal Advocacy Fund provides funding
and a support system for women
seeking judicial redress for sex discrimination.


Updated: July 23, 2014

The AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund, a program of the AAUW Educational Fund, works to combat sex discrimination through strategic litigation, community and campus outreach programs, an online resource library, online advocacy tools, and research reports.

Title IX Lawsuit Results in $700,000 Settlement

A Title IX lawsuit brought forth by former Ball State University women’s tennis head coach Kathy Bull against the university resulted in a $700,000 settlement for Bull. Bull was fired midseason after she voiced concern about the university’s Title IX compliance regarding gender equity in their athletic programs. Following Bull’s dismissal, the AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund awarded her case support, claiming her dismissal was unlawful retaliation under Title IX. Bull claims her settlement “is a victory for all women who advocate for gender equity.”

AAUW is proud of the resulting settlement and honors Bull’s courage in fighting against sex discrimination in her personal career and BSU athletic programs. AAUW strongly supports all efforts to ensure equity in school athletics because the tremendous benefits from athletic participation require a foundation of support from schools. The AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund support has been crucial in the success of many gender discrimination cases during its 31-year history. Learn more about AAUW’s extensive support of equity in school athletics, and get involved in AAUW’s fight for improved Title IX enforcement in all areas of education.

- from AAUW's Washington Update for July 13, 2012.

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Settlement Announced in Title IX Case at UC Davis

University of California, Davis and former wrestlers Arezou Mansourian, Christine Ng, and Lauren Mancuso announced this week that they had reached a settlement in the wrestlers’ Title IX claim against the university. A federal judge ruled in August that UC Davis had violated Title IX, and proceedings to determine damages had been scheduled to begin in March. The AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund supported the plaintiffs in this case, Mansourian v. Regents of the University of California, and commends the $1.35 million settlement in their favor. The group of female wrestlers sued in 2001 after they were told they could no longer participate in varsity wrestling at UC Davis. The women were later reinstated but forced to compete against men for spots on the team.

- from AAUW's Washington Update for February 17, 2012.

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Fight for Workplace Equality Began in Ithaca, NY

Equality for women in the workplace was the focus of a famous Ithaca court case. The "Cornell 11" case resulted in fundamental changes for women in colleges and universities across the country.

In 1980, the Ithaca AAUW Branch supported the 11 Cornell women who had banded together to sue Cornell University for equal pay and promotion. These assistant professors and coaches had seen less qualified and experienced men promoted while their contracts were not renewed.

As a result of their case, AAUW established the Legal Advocacy Fund, a leader in combating sex discrimination in higher education and the workplace. The women suing Wal-Mart are among the recent cases supported by AAUW. Women still earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man, even in comparable jobs.

The Cornell 11 files at the Cornell University Archives files deposited there 25 years ago were scheduled to open in March 2011, but the university counsel has advised that there were privacy concerns, and they remain closed.

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AAUW Signs Two New Amicus Briefs

In March 2009, Quinnipiac University announced plans to cut three sports teams and to compensate for the lost opportunities by counting competitive cheerleading as a varsity sport. Members of the volleyball team and their coach filed a lawsuit, Biediger v. Quinnipiac University, and in 2010, the district court ruled that competitive cheerleading is not a sport under Title IX and that the university failed to provide equal athletic opportunities to its female students under the law. Quinnipiac appealed the decision, and the case is before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. AAUW signed a brief written by the National Women’s Law Center to support the athletes in the case.

AAUW also filed an amicus brief in support of two female middle school students who were banned from wearing bracelets promoting breast cancer awareness in school. The plaintiffs in B.H. and K.M. v. Easton Area School District, represented by the ACLU Foundation of Pennsylvania, filed a lawsuit in November 2010, claiming violation of their First Amendment rights. In April 2011, the district court judge entered a preliminary court order prohibiting the school district from enforcing a ban on the bracelets. The school district appealed to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In August, AAUW signed onto a brief written by the Women’s Law Center.

- from AAUW's LAF Express for September 2011

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Fourth Circuit Victory in Sexual Harassment Case

Last Friday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Lynette Harris, a Baltimore, Maryland, electrician who faced profane, sexually charged language, a hostile work environment, and was twice refused for promotion. The circuit court’s decision in Harris v. Baltimore reversed the lower court’s ruling, finding that a reasonable jury might agree that egregious harassment occurred in violation of the Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Unfortunately, Harris’ discrimination claim was dismissed. Her sexual harassment case now returns to district court for the full trial she was previously denied.

AAUW believes that all workplaces should be fair and equitable and we signed an amicus brief supporting Harris. No person should be made to feel violated while simply trying to earn a living. To find more information, including legal resources on sex discrimination topics, visit our Legal Advocacy Fund website.

- from AAUW's Washington Update for May 13, 2011.

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LAF Campus Outreach Grants

Thanks to the Evvie Currie Campus Outreach Giving Circle, on February 4 the AAUW Buffalo (NY) Branch will hold an event on dating violence and campus sexual assault at the State University of New York, Buffalo. And in March, the AAUW Westchester (NY) Branch will hold a $tart $mart salary negotiation workshop at Westchester Community College. Three more LAF campus outreach events will take place in April and May 2011.

AAUW Members Can Receive Funding for Campus Programming!

Through the LAF Campus Outreach Program, AAUW branches and members can receive up to $750 in funding to implement a gender equity-focused program or event at their local college or university. Requests are accepted on a rolling basis.

Topics for campus outreach may include: sexual harassment on campus, sexual assault on campus, equal pay and preparing for the workplace, Title IX in the context of athletics or women in nontraditional fields, and tenure issues for faculty.

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AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund Supports Promotion Suit against University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth

WASHINGTON – The AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund announced today that it is awarding monetary support to the case Sun v. University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

Plaintiff Lulu Sun, an English professor, has alleged sex and race discrimination in the promotion process at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. Sun filed two charges of discrimination with the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination (MCAD), the first in 2005 and the second in 2006. For the first charge, MCAD found probable cause of discrimination based on gender, race, and national origin. In the second charge, MCAD found probable cause of retaliation and of discrimination based on gender, race, and national origin. Sun will seek not only a promotion and damages for the alleged discrimination but also an order from MCAD requiring the university administration to undertake diversity and anti-discrimination training and to actively recruit and promote women faculty, especially women of color.

A public hearing began in December 2010 and will conclude on Monday, January 31, 2011.

"By supporting Dr. Sun's case, we are sending employers the message that discrimination will not be tolerated," said AAUW Executive Director Linda D. Hallman, CAE. "The AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund seeks out cases that can bring about equitable treatment for all women in all workplaces."

AAUW support has been instrumental in the success of many promotion and tenure cases of faculty and staff at universities across the country during the 30-year history of the AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund.

"At my university, there has been a pattern of discrimination against women and people of color for over a dozen years," said Sun. "There are almost no female faculty of color at the full professor rank. I am grateful that AAUW is supporting my case as I work to change this reality."

Today, AAUW provides financial and organizational support for a select number of cases that have the potential to provide significant protection for all women. The funds come directly from generous AAUW members who support the Legal Advocacy Fund.

- from AAUW's Washington Update for January 27, 2011.

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AAUW Stands with Women Athletes in Fight for Equal Opportunities

Legal Advocacy Fund Supports Title IX Suit against Delaware State University

Washington, DC - The AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund announced today that it is awarding $11,500 to the Women's Law Project to support the lawsuit Foltz et al. v. Delaware State University.

The lawsuit was filed by 15 members of the Delaware State University (DSU) women's equestrian team to challenge the university's decision to eliminate the team and replace it with competitive cheerleading. The suit, which alleges that the school failed to provide equal athletic opportunities to DSU's female students, has been approved as a class action.

"AAUW is pleased to lend our support to these courageous women who have the right to equitable opportunities to participate in sports," said AAUW Executive Director Linda D. Hallman, CAE. "We are proud to stand with them in their pursuit of fairness for themselves and future students."

AAUW was instrumental in the passage of Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs and activities.

Foltz et al. v. Delaware State University will go to trial on October 18, 2010, in the U.S. District Court for Delaware. AAUW's financial support will fund an expert witness, who will testify regarding DSU's noncompliance with Title IX's requirements.

The U.S. District Court for Connecticut ruled just last week on a case involving similar issues. In that case, Biediger v. Quinnipiac University, the university eliminated a women's volleyball team to replace it with competitive cheerleading. U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill ruled that competitive cheerleading did not qualify as a varsity sport for the purposes of Title IX and that, therefore, the university failed to provide equal athletic participation opportunities for women.

"Judge Underhill's decision in the Quinnipiac University case sent a strong message to schools that clear-cut discrimination against women athletes will not and should not be tolerated. AAUW is hoping for the same common sense outcome in the Delaware State University case," said Lisa Maatz, AAUW director of public policy and government relations.

AAUW provides financial and organizational support for a select number of cases that have the potential to provide significant protection for all women. The funds come directly from the generous AAUW members who support the Legal Advocacy Fund.

- from AAUW's Washington Update for July 29, 2010.

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2010 Branch Legal Advocacy Awards

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LEGAL ADVOCACY FUND: Highlights - 25 Years of LAF History


The American Association of University Women (AAUW) Board of Directors votes at the June Convention in Boston, MA to for the AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund as a two-year pilot program to provide moral and financial support to female plaintiffs in higher education sex discrimination cases. LAF national office staff is an extension of the Public Policy department at AAUW.


AAUW directs the Board of Directors to establish a permanent Legal Advocacy Fund. To date, LAF has contributed $8,500 to the Cornell 11 (Zahorik, et al. v. Cornell University) and has granted support status to two additional cases: Penk, et al. v. Oregon State Board of Higher Education and Haffer v. Temple University.


With a generous contribution from LAF-supported plaintiff Colleen Roberts (Roberts v. College of the Desert), the LAF Board of Directors began making grants to fund travel for LAF plaintiffs to speak at state and regional AAUW meetings. Based on the enthusiastic response, LAF continues to make a limited number of Plaintiff Travel Grants each year.


LAF supported its first case - Lever v. Northwestern University, et al. - to go to the Supreme Court, a case based on sex discrimination and denial of tenure in violation of Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964.


LAF Update begins as a single page article in the winter issue of AAUW Outlook.


LAF recognizes Lani Guinier as its first Speaking Out for Justice honoree at the AAUW June Convention in Los Angeles, CA. Lani Guinier's 1993 nomination as assistant attorney general for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Justice was withdrawn in a climate of intense controversy. Guinier argued that the existing legal education program in our country serves neither the needs of current students nor the legal profession. LAF continues to present this award biennially during the AAUW Convention to those who have made a significant contribution to the betterment and well-being of women and whose focus of achievement agrees with the AAUW mission and that of LAF.


LAF makes headlines with Brzonkala v. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, et al., a landmark rape case that went to the Supreme Court. Brzonkala sued for sexual harassment under Title IX and also for disparate treatment.


LAF releases A License for Bias: Sex Discrimination, Schools and Title IX, a publication issued to dispel the belief that Title IX is a sports equity law and to determine the effectiveness of the current legislation.


Network News, an online publication for LAF network attorneys and experts providing case updates and related information is launched.


Tenure Denied: Cases of Sex Discrimination in Academia is released, a research report published jointly with LAF and the AAUW Educational Foundation.



LAF supported plaintiff, Dr. Janet Conney is awarded $4 million from her sex discrimination suit again the Regents of the University of California. Conney had sued the university, along with three former male colleagues, for sexual harassment, retaliation, and pay inequity.

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AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund Volunteer Legal Network

The AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund Volunteer Legal Network is made up of over 300 participants in 48 states and the District of Columbia. Network participants provide current and potential plaintiffs with information, consultations, and legal representation. Twice a year LAF provides network participants with Network News, an electronic newsletter keeping them abreast of LAF supported cases as well as recent precedent setting cases in employment discrimination and higher education law. This link will take you to the latest edition of the newsletter, another of LAF's critical services that supports our efforts toward equity and education for women and girls.

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Drawing the Line: Sexual Harassment on Campus

On Tuesday, Jan. 24 the AAUW Educational Foundation will release the most comprehensive research to date on sexual harassment on college campuses at a press conference in Washington, D.C. Drawing the Line: Sexual Harassment on Campus analyzes findings from a nationally representative survey of undergraduate college students, which documents that the majority of college students report being sexually harassed, and nearly one-third report some type of physical harassment such as being touched, grabbed or forced to do something sexual. Additional resources on this issue will be available on AAUW’s website beginning on Jan. 24 to coincide with the press conference.

- from AAUW's Washington Update for January 13, 2006

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Building a Harassment-Free Campus

As a part of AAUW’s new programmatic theme, “Education as the Gateway to Women’s Economic Security,” AAUW has developed a new campus initiative: Building a Harassment-Free Campus. Information regarding this initiative and the Campus Action Project focused on Building a Harassment-Free Campus is available online.

- from AAUW's Washington Update for October 6, 2005

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National Women's Law Center Unveils Exercise Your Rights Campaign

The National Women's Law Center is proud to announce the unveiling of an exciting campaign to educate the public about the 10 key areas covered by Title IX. The Exercise Your Rights campaign is the result of NWLC Board Member Deborah Slaner Larkin's creative vision and commitment to pursuing gender equity in education. The campaign is a powerful tool for change that includes a two-minute professionally produced video describing Title IX and its application beyond athletics; nine magazine and three radio ads addressing several of the 10 key areas of Title IX; a pocket sized Title IX primer; and other materials. These materials not only explain Title IX and how it can help individuals, but they also provide people with ways to take action to preserve this landmark law when it is attacked or threatened with changes.

The campaign is driven by the website, which highlights the 10 key areas covered by Title IX: Access to Higher Education, Athletics, Career Education, Education for Pregnant and Parenting Students, Employment, Learning Environment, Math and Science, Sexual Harrassment, Standardized Testing, and Technology. It also includes an overview of educational life before Title IX; and the progress made since the law was enacted, problems that still exist, case studies to illustrate how the issues could personally affect the readers or their communities, and links to more detailed information on the 10 major areas, organizations working on the issues, and key resources.

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