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Illinois District Court Affirms Federal Civil Rights Protections for Independent Contractors, Allowing Title IX Case Against DePaul University to Proceed | Public Justice
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Illinois District Court Affirms Federal Civil Rights Protections for Independent Contractors, Allowing Title IX Case Against DePaul University to Proceed

Illinois District Court Affirms Federal Civil Rights Protections for Independent Contractors, Allowing Title IX Case Against DePaul University to Proceed

For Immediate Release
January 10, 2023

Contact: Lucy Sears
(240) 676-4499 | lsears@publicjustice.net

Illinois District Court Affirms Federal Civil Rights Protections for Independent Contractors, Allowing Title IX Case Against DePaul University to Proceed

ILLINOIS – On Monday, January 9, 2023, the Northern District of Illinois denied DePaul University’s motion to dismiss a Title IX retaliation case brought by Dr. Jenny Conviser, a sports psychologist, whose company Ascend, had provided mental health care to DePaul’s student athletes for over a decade.

As explained in her complaint, DePaul retaliated against her and eventually terminated its contract with Dr. Conviser after she blew the whistle on sex abuse and discrimination in its athletics department, including by famed softball coach Eugene Lenti. When Dr. Conviser and her company sued under Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education, DePaul sought to dismiss the case on the basis that she was an independent contractor rather than a student or employee.

In a 46-page opinion, the district court on Monday rejected DePaul’s argument, permitting the case to move forward and clarifying that Title IX protects independent contractors.

“We are thrilled that Dr. Conviser will have the opportunity to proceed with her case and prove DePaul retaliated against her for trying to protect its students,” said Public Justice Staff Attorney Alexandra Brodsky. “Just as was true when she worked at DePaul, Dr. Conviser’s continued advocacy will help others who face discrimination and retaliation. Judge Valederrama’s thorough analysis serves as an important reminder to schools that Title IX’s protections are expansive. And Title IX rights are crucial for school contractors, including adjunct professors, who are particularly vulnerable to discrimination because of their precarious employment status.”

Dr. Conviser and her company are represented by Public Justice and Zumpano Patricios & Popok, PLLC.

“While the Court’s ruling today does not yet fix the culture at DePaul, which is the focus of the suit, it is a needed step in the right direction to establish a safe learning and training environment for students and student athletes,” said Dr. Conviser.

“We appreciate that the Court has found that our client Dr. Jenny Conviser, fired by DePaul for speaking truth to power, is just the type of plaintiff that Title IX’s anti-retaliation provisions were meant to protect,” Michael Popok of Zumpano Patricios & Popok, PLLC said. “As a result of the ruling, she may now continue her fight to effect needed change in DePaul’s culture and approach to mental health and student safety.”

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About Public Justice

Public Justice is a national public interest advocacy organization that fights against abusive corporate power and predatory practices, the assault on civil rights and liberties, and the destruction of the earth’s sustainability. Public Justice specializes in connecting high-impact litigation with strategic communications and the strength of its partnerships to fight these abusive and discriminatory systems and win social and economic justice.



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