For more information please call  800.727.2766


Professor May Not Pursue Sex Discrimination Claims Anonymously

Jane Doe taught courses as a tenure-track professor at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) starting in 2016. Just before beginning her employment, she gave birth to her third child. Doe alleges the Dean made inappropriate comments about her recent pregnancy and family, sharing his relief that she was done having kids and that TCNJ would not have to accommodate her pregnancy needs. She received positive feedback on her teaching performance. However, when Doe became pregnant with her fourth child, she alleges the TCNJ faculty began to turn on her. Multiple TCNJ employees asked if she was done having children. The same professor who rated her highly the year before gave her a less positive review for the same course. Another TCNJ faculty member also gave her a more negative review. TCNJ then denied her application to renew her contract. She sued for discrimination under Title VII and New Jersey’s anti-discrimination statute. She requested to move forward anonymously.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals considered her request on appeal. To be able to proceed anonymously, Doe needed to show a reasonable fear of severe harm meriting an exception to “the public’s common law right of access to judicial proceedings.” Doe argued she would face harassment, reputational damage, economic harm, and professional stigma. She expressed concern about the publicizing of personal information about her children, pregnancy, and miscarriage. The circuit court rejected her arguments, finding Doe did not show clearly that denying her anonymity would deter other similarly situated individuals from litigating claims. She submitted a news article addressing how gender bias negatively affects female professors. The court found the article did not “explain why denying Doe anonymity would dissuade similarly situated women in academia from seeking judicial relief.” The appellate court determined the district court appropriately weighed the public’s interest in open proceedings, which are counter to a litigant’s interest in anonymity.