Legal Advocacy Fund Cases

Read on for quick updates on the status of our currently supported cases, and click on the case name for more in-depth information. Looking for a past case? Check out the full list.


Aileen Rizo

Rizo v. Fresno County Office of Education

Adopted 2015
Aileen Rizo is a math consultant for the Fresno County Office of Education (FCOE) in Fresno, California. She filed suit against the FCOE under equal pay and gender discrimination laws after discovering she was paid less than her male colleague who had less experience and seniority. Knowing that the use of salary history is one underlying factor of the gender wage gap, Rizo challenged the FCOE’s practice of basing pay exclusively on an employee’s salary history. On April 27, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit handed down an unfavorable decision in Rizo’s case. AAUW joined an amicus brief in support of Rizo’s petition for rehearing en banc — in front of all the judges of a court rather than only a selected panel — and urged the Ninth Circuit to reconsider, and on August 29 the Ninth Circuit Court granted a petition for rehearing en banc.

Nathalie Gosset

Gosset v. Lasch, Cooper, Alfred E. Mann Institute for Biomedical Engineering, University of Southern California: A Sexual Harassment Case

Adopted September 2016
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from sexual harassment and forbids employers from retaliating against their employees for filing a charge of harassment or speaking out against harassment. Nathalie Gosset, the plaintiff in Gosset v. Lasch, Cooper, Alfred E. Mann Institute for Biomedical Engineering, University of Southern California, alleges that she experienced sexual harassment by her employer and was terminated after she reported the behavior. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII, and retaliation against employees who report harassment is alarmingly widespread.

Image by Tony Cairns, Flickr Creative Commons

Burhans V. Yale

Adopted 2015

“Our thirst for female professors and women who model for other women pursuing excellence and leadership will never be quenched while we allow inequities to continue at our universities.”
— Susan Landino (formerly Susan Burhans)

Susan Burhans was hired by Yale University in 1999 as a communications specialist and served the university as a security education coordinator. In 2012, Burhans filed suit against Yale, alleging sex discrimination and unlawful retaliation under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and other laws. Burhans claims she was discriminated against and eventually terminated after years of attempting to help survivors of sexual assault on campus and alert Yale to potential Title IX violations. The suit was originally filed in 2012 and favorably settled in 2017.

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Baldwin et al. v. Department of Defense

Adopted 2014
Servicewomen Celina Baldwin, Alyssa Rodriguez, Jennifer Smith, and Carmelita Swain were forced to endure sexual assault or rape while on active duty in the U.S. military, some during deployments. Although each plaintiff tried to seek justice through the military’s system, they claim that the military failed to provide fair hearings or protect them from retaliation. They filed suit under civilian laws and under the U.S. Constitution, fighting to reform the military justice system and prevent service members who were themselves accused of sexual harassment or assault from serving as convening authorities in charge of sexual misconduct investigations.

The case was filed in late March 2015 in the Eastern District Court of Virginia. Unfortunately, these cases were unsuccessful. The court dismissed these cases citing established precedent: Service members are not permitted to sue for events arising in the course of their service.

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Thein v. Feather River Community College

Adopted 2007
Paul Thein, Laurel Wartluft, and Michelle Henley (previously known as Michelle Jaureguito) are former employees of Feather River Community College in California. In 2006, they filed whistle-blower lawsuits against Feather River, alleging that the college violated Title IX by retaliating against them for complaining about sex discrimination, among other claims.

The plaintiffs won an important victory in 2014 when a California State Personnel Board judgment in their favor was upheld. Henley and Wartluft settled their lawsuits in fall 2015. Thein settled in May 2017 for $2 million.

Return to the Legal Advocacy Fund Legal Case Support page.

Recently Concluded Cases

View the list of AAUW’s past supported cases.