Sex & Gender Discrimination

We challenge sex & gender discrimination through high-impact litigation and policy advocacy.

The Women’s Law Project has a significant track record of challenging sex & gender discrimination wherever it is found, including in school, employment, athletics, healthcare, insurance, and the criminal justice system. We strategically leverage high-impact litigation in cases where the outcome could affect a significant population, or set a precedent toward full equality for women of all races, genders, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation. We have filed cases challenging discrimination on behalf of athletes, students, employees, LGBTQ people, domestic violence survivors, rape survivors, and women who are incarcerated.

These cases are pursued under federal, state and local anti-discrimination laws, such as Title VII for employment. Discrimination in an education setting can be challenged through enforcement of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination in federally-funded educational programs.

We are particularly interested in exploring how sex and gender discrimination inform women’s health outcomes. In 2012, we published Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women, a landmark report that analyzes the affect sexual assault, intimate partner violence, poverty, bias in the workplace, school, and health care, and other forms of discrimination has on health outcomes for women and girls. While written for Pennsylvania, the findings and recommendations have nationwide application.

The report also delves into the politicization of women’s reproductive healthcare, and examines how women are harmed by limited access to abortion, contraception, and maternity care. We conclude with concrete recommendations for reform. Through the Lens of Equality informed the first incarnation of what became the Women’s Health Agenda, a legislative blueprint for improving women’s health and economic security in Pennsylvania.

Notable Litigation & Amicus Curiae Representation
School Athletics

WLP v Bloomsburg, WLP v Clarion, WLP v Indiana, WLP v Kutztown, WLP v Kutztown University, WLP v Millersville University, WLP v. Shippensburg University (Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Dept. of Education)  Complainant against member schools of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education alleging violations of Title IX’s equal athletic participation and financial assistance requirements

Beattie v. Line Mountain School District, 992 F. Supp. 2d 384 (M. D. PA 2014) Counsel for plaintiffs in successful challenge to exclusion of female student from middle school wrestling team based on sex under the PA Equal Rights Amendment and U. S. Constitution Equal Protection Clause.  Link to preliminary injunction ruling and consent decree.

Foltz et al. v. Delaware State University, No. 10-149 (Dist. Ct. Del. 2010).  Co-counsel for plaintiff class of female students at Delaware State University challenging the university’s failure to provide female students with equal opportunity to participate in athletics and for planning to eliminate the women’s equestrian team in the absence of compliance, successfully resolved by consent decree.

Choike v. Slippery Rock University, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49886 (W.D. Pa.) (granting preliminary injunction),  2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 57774 (Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Consent Order) Co-counsel for plaintiff class in Title IX class action challenging inequitable participation opportunities and treatment of female athletes at state university, settled by consent decree following court granting of preliminary injunction.  School Athletics

Brady v. Sacred Heart University, No. 303-CV-514 (D. Conn. 2003). Co-counsel for plaintiff in Title IX action challenging university’s actions removing student from women’s basketball team, denying her scholarship, and instructing her to leave school due to pregnancy.Sexual Misconduct in Schools

Hill v. Madison County School Board, et al., No 14-12481 (11th Cir. 2014). Counsel for amici curiae thirty-three organizations supporting a student’s claim that her school acted in deliberate indifference to her sexual assault by another student when it used her as “bait” in a scheme to catch the harasser in the act instead of protecting her from imminent assault by a known harasser.

First Amendment

B.H., et al. v. Easton Area School District, 725 F.3d 293 (3d Cir. 2013).  Counsel for amici curiae organizations dedicated to gender equality supporting plaintiff’s students civil rights claim challenging a Pennsylvania middle school’s ban of breast cancer awareness bracelets.

Single-sex School

Newberg v. Bd. of Pub. Educ., 26 Pa. D. & C. 3d 682 (Ct. C.P., Phila. County 1983), appeal quashed, 478 A. 2d 1352 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1984). Co-counsel for female students in successful constitutional challenge to exclusion of girls from Philadelphia’s prestigious Central High School.

Employment

PA Restaurant and Lodging Ass’n v. City of Pittsburgh and SEIU Local 32BJ, 79 CD 2016 (Commonwealth Ct. 2016).  Counsel for intervenors at trial level and for amici curiae on appeal in support of defendants in challenge to Pittsburgh paid leave ordinance.

Prowel v. Wise Business FormsCo-counsel for amici curiae twenty-one organizations representing women in non-traditional employment supporting reversal of dismissal of sex discrimination claims based on sex stereotyping.

Insurance

Lynn v. Nationwide Insurance Co. 70 A.3d 814 (Pa. Super. 2013). Counsel for amici curiae 26 women’s rights and domestic violence organizations supporting the applicability of a law, WLP was instrumental in creating to require insurance coverage for damage caused by domestic violence. Amicus Brief

Bartholomew v. Foster, 115 Pa. Commw. 430, 541 A.2d 393 (1988). Co-counsel for plaintiffs in successful challenge to gender-based auto insurance rates under the Pennsylvania Equal Rights Amendment.

Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co. v. Insurance Comm’r of Pa., 65 Commw. 249, 442 A.2d 382 aff’d 505 Pa. 571, 482 A.2d 542 (1984). Co-counsel for amici curiae Women’s Law Project and NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund in support of Insurance Commissioner position that use of gender to set insurance rates violated Pennsylvania Equal Rights Amendment.

Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Presentation

Rainbow Alliance v. University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations 2015). Representation of plaintiffs before Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations in challenge to University’s application of gendered facilities policy to transgender students.

Ankney v. Allegheny Intermediate Unit, NO. GD-13-005851 (CCP Allegheny Co. 2013). Co-counsel for Bradley Ankney, a math teacher for the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU), in challenge to AIU’s refusal to provide health insurance and other benefits to the same-sex partners of its employees while providing those benefits to employees’ spouses.

Prowel v. Wise Business Forms No. 07-3997 (3d Cir. Aug. 28, 2009)Co-counsel for amici curiae twenty-one organizations representing women in non-traditional employment supporting reversal of dismissal of sex discrimination claims based on sex stereotyping.

Egolf v. Seneca, No. 2004-03160-28-5 (Bucks Cty. C.P. Oct. 19, 2004). Co-counsel for defendant gay couple in action brought against them by twelve Pennsylvania legislators seeking declaratory judgment barring couple from marrying.

In re Adoption of R.B.F., 803 A.2d 1195 (Pa. 2002). Counsel for Philadelphia Bar Association, Family Law Section of Allegheny County Bar Association, and others in support of second-parent adoption.

T.B. v. L.R.M., 786 A.2d 913 (Pa. 2001). Counsel for amici curiae Support Center for Child Advocates and fifty-four other organizations in support of petitioner, lesbian co-parent seeking third-party standing to sue for visitation with child).

Incarcerated Women

Blades v. Brushaw 1:11-cv-00026-MPK (W.D. Pa. 2012). Co-counsel in civil rights lawsuit by a former prisoner challenging shackling while giving birth to her baby en route to a hospital.

Farley v. City of Philadelphia, No. 06-2110 (E.D. Pa. 2006) (co-counsel for plaintiff in civil rights action challenging prison’s deliberate indifference to woman in preterm labor).

Public Accommodations

Smith v. Leechburg Moose Lodge and Moose International, Inc. (Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission 2015) Counsel to plaintiff in complaint of sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, in public accommodations and retaliation.

Title IX

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. —Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972