Lawsuit attempts to cash in on Title IX scandal, Baylor says

Liesje Powers | Multimedia editor

By Phoebe Suy | Staff Writer

Baylor moved to dismiss claims in a lawsuit filed by former Title IX investigator Gabrielle Lyons, saying Lyons failed to corroborate her claims in an attempt to “cash in” on publicity surrounding the university’s sexual assault scandal, according to the motion Baylor filed Monday.

Lyons filed a lawsuit against Baylor on Aug. 28, accusing Baylor of “intentional retaliation” against her for working to bring the university into compliance with Title IX. Lyons asked for $750,000 for damages, according to the lawsuit.

“This is not about money. This is about protecting women and Baylor trots out that same excuse every time instead of dealing with Baylor’s mistakes, which is sad,” Lyons’ attorney Rogge Dunn said.

Dunn said he believes many people are nervous about filing lawsuits about sexual harassment because they are nervous about Baylor “attack[ing] them … which is exactly what they did when they said this [was] about money.”

“It takes a lot of courage to stand up and be counted,” Dunn

Lyons’ original complaint stated that Baylor’s “deliberate opposition” and retaliation created “a tense, pervasive and hostile work environment to frustrate [Lyons] in hopes that she would voluntarily resign.”

According to Dunn, Lyons “reached out to Baylor multiple times to get assistance to do her job and got pushback and roadblocks.”

Working conditions in the Title IX office were so “hostile and retaliatory,” according to the complaint, that “other employees in Baylor’s Title IX office felt compelled and forced to resign and did resign.” The filing alleges similar tactics were used against former Title IX coordinator Patty Crawford.

Despite Lyons’ insistence that she was constructively discharged–meaning her work conditions were so intolerable that a reasonable person would quit–Baylor’s motion said Lyons voluntarily resigned from her position.

“Baylor vigorously denies Lyons’ unfounded allegations–which are wholly inconsistent with Baylor’s actions during Lyons’ employment, a time frame in which Baylor was actively working to establish a greater and more robust Title IX presence at the University–and, if the Court denies this motion, will address them in detail at the appropriate time,” Baylor’s motion said.

Baylor said on Tuesday that it would “decline to comment outside of yesterday’s motion to dismiss.”

Lyons’ Title VII, a federal law prohibiting employers from discriminating against individuals based upon their race, color, religion, sex or national origin, claims are only actionable if Lyons was constructively discharged, Baylor said. In order to prove constructive discharge claims, Baylor said Lyons “must establish that working conditions were so intolerable that a reasonable employee would have felt compelled to resign.”

While Lyons’ complaint accuses Baylor of a “sexist attitude” and “a pattern and practice that was intentionally discriminatory,” Baylor said these “passing references” do not satisfy standards necessary for constructive discharge claims under Title VII.

Lyons’ lawsuit is “wholly devoid of any factual allegations” regarding constructive discharges, “or anything else that would support a claim of constructive discharge based on sex discrimination,” Baylor’s motion stated.

Lyons’ other complaints include Title IX and negligence claims, both of which Baylor said should be dismissed.

Baylor said Lyons’ alleged facts, if true, fail to support her claims of Baylor’s Title VII violations. The university said the same framework for Title VII applies to Title IX, requiring Lyons “to show a materially adverse action caused by the protected activity.”

Baylor ultimately said Lyons did not present sufficient facts to support her Title IX claims. Because Lyons uses the same facts to claim negligence as she does to support her Title VII and Title IX claims, Baylor argued that Lyons barred and preempted her negligent investigation and gross negligence claims.

Dunn said he believes the facts presented in the complaint are sufficient for Lyons’ claims. Moving forward, Dunn said there are “certainly more facts” they can provide. Dunn said they will respond to Baylor’s motion to dismiss, which he said he thinks the judge will deny.