The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to decide whether Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972 entitles the federal government to cut off funds from schools and colleges that discriminate against their employees on the basis of sex.
The Court accepted the Department of Education's appeal of two lower court decisions invalidating the department's equal-pay regulations for educational institutions receiving federal funds.
R. Claire Guthrie, assistant general counsel to the American Council on Education, said yesterday, "Six courts have ruled on the issue to date, and five have ruled against the Dept. of Education," adding, "But the majority does not always rule."
The case in litigation, U.S. Department of Education v. Seattle University, began with a government investigation of complaints by faculty members in the university's school of nursing who said they received low salaries in violation of Title IX regulations. The university sued to stop the investigation on the grounds that the equal-pay regulations exceed the Department of Education's authority under Title IX.
Title IX provides that no one will be discriminated against on the basis of sex "under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."
Unless the federal funds are being used directly for employment programs, Title IX does not apply, Diane B. Fraser, assistant to Harvard's General Counsel, said yesterday.
"This is essentially a wonderful academic game," Guthrie said, adding, "It has absolutely no effect at all." She said Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Executive Order 11246 already forbid federally funded institutions from discriminating on the basis of race, religion or sex.
She added, "There are already three agencies enforcing the codes; the last thing they need is a fourth agency."
"We believe Title IX bans all forms of sexual discrimination," Karl M. Lahring, staff attorney with the Department of Education, said yesterday. "I think duplication in the government's law enforcement activities can be reduced by proper coordination and not by the invalidation of legitimate regulations," he added.