Conviser v. DePaul University
This is a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by Dr. Jenny Conviser, an accomplished psychotherapist, and her company, Ascend. For over a decade, Dr. Conviser and her companies were DePaul University’s mental health resource for student-athletes and athletics staff. But when Dr. Conviser spoke up about Title IX abuses and encouraged others to do the same, DePaul retaliated against her, reducing patient referrals and then terminating her contract.
Dr. Conviser and Ascend filed their second amended complaint on May 24, 2021, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. They allege violations of Title IX, the federal sex discrimination law that prohibits retaliation, and state contract law. DePaul moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that Title IX does not protect independent contractors like Dr. Conviser and her company.
On January 9, 2023, the district court denied DePaul’s motion to dismiss the Title IX claim, allowing the case to proceed. In a 46-page opinion, the district court held that the statute’s expansively worded text makes clear independent contractors can bring suit under Title IX. The court wrote: “Put simply, Plaintiffs allege that they are ‘person[s]’ who have been ‘subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.’ 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a). The plain language of the statute does not require a plaintiff to have been denied an educational benefit, nor does the statute limit its application to students, employees, or beneficiaries of the federal financial assistance. The Court finds . . . that Plaintiffs’ interests fall comfortably within the zone of interests Title IX arguably serves to protect.”