AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund

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


Updated: December 16, 2016

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.

AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund Supports Sex Discrimination Suit against University of Tennessee

The American Association of University Women Legal Advocacy Fund announced today that it will provide support to the plaintiffs in Moshak v. University of Tennessee, a case that underscores the everyday nature of gender discrimination in college athletics.

The lawsuit was filed in 2012 by Jennifer Moshak, Heather Mason, and Collin Schlosser, former employees of the University of Tennessee’s women’s athletics department. The plaintiffs allege sex discrimination and unlawful retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and the Equal Pay Act of 1963. They claim they were unlawfully discriminated against and eventually forced out of their positions during a university-led merger of the men’s and women’s athletic departments.

Schlosser and Mason argue in part that they were fired by UT after making internal complaints alleging unequal pay between the men’s and women’s athletic departments. Moshak claims she was forced to retire after being demoted and marginalized. The plaintiffs also say that during the merger, which was led by newly hired Athletic Director Dave Hart, the vast majority — 86 percent — of positions terminated either were held by women or were associated with the women’s athletic department.

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AAUW Applauds Decision in Sun v. University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) applauds the recent decision by the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination (MCAD) in the case Sun v. University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. Plaintiff Lulu Sun, who received case support from the AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund, was awarded significant damages, including $200,000 for emotional distress.

The AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund has been crucial to the success of many gender discrimination cases during its 33-year history. The case-support program provides financial and organizational backing for plaintiffs challenging gender discrimination in education and the workplace. The funds come directly from the generous contributions of AAUW members.

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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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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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