College Employee Issues - Retaliation

Students have certain protections against retaliation, and Title IX governs some of those protections. As someone in a superior position at a college—whether you are a coach, professor, administrator, or other authority—you have a duty to abide by these protections.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help if you face the prospect of your school taking adverse action against you, or if you have been terminated, suspended, or suffer other consequences stemming from alleged retaliation against a student. Regardless of the veracity of the accusations against you, having an attorney on your side is crucial. We will seek to preserve your reputation and enact financial justice if appropriate.

In the meantime, you should learn all that you possibly can about allegations of retaliation. To do so, simply continue reading.

What Is Title IX?

Title IX is a federal civil rights law that is often relevant to collegiate employment issues. It may guide how your university handles employee issues, including allegations of retaliation.

Known formally as Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, Title IX states that:

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Title IX applies to any public or private educational institution that receives federal funds. The law may or may not apply to your case. If Title IX does apply to your case, then you should have an understanding of what the law forbids.

What Acts Does Title IX Forbid?

Title IX strictly forbids discrimination based on gender. According to the National College Athletic Association (NCAA), this includes gender-based discrimination in:

  • Access to course offerings
  • Access to counseling and counseling materials
  • Access to financial aid and assistance
  • Access to student housing
  • Access to student health services
  • Access to insurance benefits
  • Participation in athletic events
  • Issuance of athletic scholarships
  • Access to per diems, athletic supplies, and other resources generally provided to athletes

Students have the right to report Title IX violations. When they do, they have a right not to be retaliated against. Discrimination or mistreatment that stems from a student's Title IX-related report is generally considered retaliation.

Title IX Explicitly Forbids Retaliation

Per the U.S. Department of Education, Title IX explicitly forbids retaliation:

“Retaliatory acts...against any individual who exercises his or her rights under Title IX, are considered to be discrimination and are unlawful.”

Retaliation subjects the target to differential treatment, qualifying the act as a form of discrimination. So long as the inciting cause of the retaliation relates to an alleged Title IX violation, then Title IX rules generally apply to the retaliation itself.

Retaliation subjects the target to differential treatment, qualifying the act as a form of discrimination. So long as the inciting cause of the retaliation relates to an alleged Title IX violation, then Title IX rules generally apply to the retaliation itself.

Will Title IX Apply to Your Case?

The specific nature of the allegations against you will determine if Title IX rules and procedures apply to your case. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team are well-versed in the letter and application of Title IX laws. They will review your case and explain whether it falls under the purview of Title IX.

Specific Acts That Qualify as Retaliation

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) cites several examples of retaliation against students in the context of Title IX. Its examples include:

  • Giving a student a failing grade
  • Threatening expulsion
  • Preventing a student from participating in school activities

In addition to these acts, retaliation may include:

  • Refusing to provide academic or athletic assistance to a student
  • Threatening revocation of a scholarship
  • Ridiculing a student
  • Making menacing comments
  • Contacting a student outside of class or athletic activities in a retaliatory manner
  • Singling the student out in a way that appears discriminatory

In a vacuum, some of these acts do not necessarily qualify as retaliation. They generally become retaliation when they are used as intimidation against a student (generally with the goal of having the student rescind a reported Title IX violation).

Who Can Be Accused of Retaliation?

Technically, any college employee may be accused of retaliation. However, college employees with the power to enact material harm on students may be the most likely targets for an allegation of retaliation.

Some employees are simply more likely to be accused of retaliation than other employees. For example, a janitor employed by the school may have few ways to “retaliate” against a student. They may also lack obvious reasons to retaliate against a student.

On the other hand, a coach, professor, Dean, resident assistant (RA), teaching assistant, or other college employee may have both motive and ability to retaliate against a student. However, motive and ability do not necessarily equal guilt.

What Consequences Do You Face for Alleged Retaliation?

Each university may handle alleged Title IX offenses differently. The way a university handles Title IX cases must comply with blanket Title IX mandates. Universities may also have clear protocols for handling alleged retaliation that does not fall under the Title IX purview.

Formal consequences for alleged retaliation may include:

  • Immediate termination
  • Suspension
  • Disciplinary probation
  • Written reprimand

Do not assume that your employer will be lenient or understanding. Louisiana State University (LSU) recently announced a no-tolerance policy for Title IX reporting, by which employees will be terminated for failing to report. Your school may have a similar policy for alleged retaliation.

Sanctions issued by your university will almost certainly cause a shockwave of harm in your life. The effects of sanctions can include:

  • Loss of income (in the case of termination or suspension)
  • Harm stemming directly from your loss of income, including the inability to support your loved ones
  • Reputational harm
  • Difficulty finding another job (especially in the academic field)
  • Mental health difficulties

You may have already experienced harm from an allegation of retaliation. Perhaps your employer has already taken action against you. Do not give up, as you may have multiple paths to justice.

How Will Your Employer Handle an Allegation of Retaliation?

It's important to emphasize that universities generally abide by school-specific policies and protocols. While the legal mandates stemming from Title IX provide some guidance, it's difficult to generalize about how your case will unfold.

To provide a more concrete example, let's examine how the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) handles reporting and adjudication of retaliation claims. (Reader note: this university was chosen simply because it has a clear policy on retaliation claims)

UNI's protocols for general employee misconduct are as follows:

  1. A student reports alleged retaliation to the UNI Office of Compliance and Equity Management
  2. If necessary, the student or school will also make a report to a Title IX Officer or Title IX Deputy Coordinator

UNI also details the procedures for reporting retaliation specifically. This process includes:

  1. The student reporting alleged retaliation to the department head (alternate instructions are provided if the department head is the one accused of retaliation)
  2. The department head explores the possibility of an informal resolution
  3. If an informal resolution is not possible or appropriate, UNI provides a list of offices for the student to contact for further action
  4. The complainant will complete and submit a Complaint of Retaliation form including details of the alleged retaliation
  5. The recipient of the complaint will provide written acknowledgment of receipt. The recipient will then notify the accused (you) of pending allegations.

At this point, UNI initiates an investigation into the alleged retaliation. The assigned investigator will:

  • Meet with the accuser
  • Meet with the accused
  • Meet with any other parties who have “knowledge relevant to the investigation”
  • Gather any relevant evidence
  • Discuss the allegation with each of the above parties

As the final step, UNI's procedures explain that “A finding will be made by the department head (or designee) of the appropriate office based on the investigation.”

While these processes are specific to the University of Northern Iowa, they may be similar to protocols for many other schools. Hopefully, they give you an accurate idea of the process that you may face.

Every school may have a unique policy (or no policy) for appealing an unfair decision. Lento Law Firm will review your case and inform you of your legal options.

What Is the Standard for Proving Retaliation?

The standard for proving retaliation fall at each university's discretion. After gathering all evidence, decision-makers may determine whether:

  • It is most likely that retaliation did occur
  • It is most likely that retaliation did not occur
  • It is unclear whether retaliation occurred

With an allegation of retaliation, one has to prove motive. It's generally not enough to simply prove that you took certain actions against a student. To prove retaliation, one must also prove that you took action against a student that was of a retaliatory nature.

To meet this standard, those alleging wrongdoing against you will need to show clear, unequivocal proof that your actions occurred in bad faith. If they cannot show this and you still face sanctions, then you may have grounds for legal action.

What Are Defenses Against an Allegation of Retaliation?

Defenses against an allegation of retaliation may include:

  • That the accuser is exaggerating or misrepresenting your actions
  • That the accuser is not being truthful
  • That, while you did take certain actions, those actions were justified (and not retaliatory)
  • That you had no basis for retaliation

The onus is on the accuser to prove that you acted in a retaliatory manner. Defending you against such charges may be a matter of instilling reasonable doubt or proving outright that you did not retaliate.

What Legal Options Are Available to You?

Your legal options will depend on the circumstances you find yourself in. If you have yet to face any sanctions, then defending yourself from an allegation of retaliation is your top priority.

If you were terminated or suspended in a wrongful manner, then you may have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit or other legal action.

Why You Should Hire a Lawyer for Your Case

Attorney Joseph D. Lento makes college employee issues a central focus of his practice. Attorney Lento and his team will serve as your personal advisor and representative.

Your employer is just that...your employer. Your employer is not your lawyer, and you should recognize that it may not act in your best interest. Our team will seek to:

  • Preserve your job
  • Ensure that you receive the income that you deserve
  • Defend you effectively from an allegation of retaliation
  • Clear your name

There are several reasons why you may choose to hire our team. You may retain the Lento Law Firm because:

  • You are not a lawyer
  • You are not familiar with Title IX or university-led protocols for cases like yours
  • You understand that these processes are not always fair
  • You stand to lose much if you are deemed culpable for retaliation against a student

Can you think of any reasons not to hire Joseph D. Lento for your case? He has unparalleled experience with college employee issues and will fight for you.

Attorney Joseph. D Lento Knows Title IX

Title IX is a particularly tricky aspect of college employment. Universities are frightened of being labeled negligent in their adherence to Title IX laws. Therefore, they may be overzealous in their handling of Title IX-related retaliation claims.

For that matter, they may be overzealous in handling non-Title IX retaliation claims. In any case, you want an attorney who understands the ins and outs of Title IX. You want attorney Joseph D. Lento.

The Lento Law Firm Handles All Kinds of Retaliation Cases

The Lento Law Firm can assist you with any type of retaliation case. We will help whether you have yet to enter the university's adjudication process, you are partially through that process, or you have already received sanctions.

Our team will:

  • Ascertain all the facts of your case as quickly as possible
  • Determine an appropriate defense
  • Explain what you should do (and refrain from doing) as your case unfolds
  • Seek any evidence that serves your defense
  • Accompany you to any hearings or meetings that we are permitted to attend
  • Complete any necessary lawsuit for wrongful termination

We will do everything within our power to secure a positive outcome for you.

Hire Joseph D. Lento to Defend You from an Allegation of Retaliation

Do not wait to retain our services. An allegation of retaliation can be career-threatening and may have negative impacts beyond your career. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to speak with attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team about your case.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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