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Law School Case Brief

O'Connor v. Davis - 126 F.3d 112 (2d Cir. 1997)


The definition of the term employee provided in Title VII is circular: the Act states only that an employee is an individual employed by an employer. 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e(f). However, when Congress uses the term employee without defining it with precision, courts should presume that Congress had in mind the conventional master-servant relationship as understood by the common-law agency doctrine.


Plaintiff filed a sexual harassment claim against defendant Rockland under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, § 706(e), and Title IX of Education Amendments of 1972, § 901(a). alleging that during her internship, she was subjected to sexual harassment by one of the defendant’s’ doctors, so that she had to move to another facility. Defendants argued that the plaintiff was not an “employee” within the meaning of Title VII. Second, the defendants argued that the Title IX claim should be dismissed because Rockland was not an "educational institution" as set forth in Title IX. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant and the plaintiff sought review.


Can the plaintiff bring a sexual harassment suit pursuant to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Education Amendments Act of 1972?




The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment, holding that the plaintiff was not an employee of defendants as required by Title VII, because she received no remuneration from either. Defendants were not educational institutions within the meaning of Title IX because education was not their principal purpose and they were not running educational programs.

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