Sexual assault and misconduct is a serious issue at Texas colleges and universities. As a result, federal law and regulations under Title IX mandate how schools must respond to these allegations to ensure that victims get the help and protection they need. Unfortunately, sometimes college employees can find themselves falsely accused of sexual harassment or other misconduct and subject to a labyrinthian system of investigations and hearings that aren't fully transparent. Fortunately, if you're the subject of a Title IX sexual misconduct allegation, you have the right to an advisor to guide you through the process. Experienced Title IX attorney Joseph Lento can help protect your rights and your job.
What Is Title IX?
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”), 20 U.S.C. §1681 et seq., is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination “on the basis of sex” in all schools that accept federal funding. As a result, Title IX applies to K through 12 public schools and publicly-funded colleges and universities throughout Texas.
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.
If a college in Texas accepts federal funding, it must avoid sex discrimination in hiring, athletics, employment, and admissions. The U.S. Department of Education also created federal regulations that delineate how schools must respond to Title IX allegations and the many protections they must offer both the accused and potential victims during the process. As a result, Title IX actions can be difficult to navigate without legal advice from an experienced Title IX attorney.
Does Title IX Apply to Me?
Title IX applies to students, but the law and regulations also apply to all employees of Title IX institutions, including professors and faculty, administration, coaches and trainers, administrators, Resident Assistants, and other staff. While Title IX does protect full and part-time employees from sex-based discrimination, you can also be subject to Title IX disciplinary actions. Title IX prohibits conduct by employees such as:
- Sexual harassment, including quid pro quo and hostile environment harassment
- Sexual assault, including non-consensual sex, non-consensual sexual contact, incest, and statutory rape
- Domestic violence
- Dating or intimate partner violence
How Does Title IX Work?
Title IX mandates that colleges investigate serious criminal allegations, even if no student or employee makes an official complaint. Unfortunately, this can lead to an overzealous university administration. Moreover, many universities aren't prepared to handle complex criminal investigations and disciplinary hearings in a manner that will protect your due process rights.
1. The Complaint
A Title IX action typically begins with a complaint filed with your school's Title IX coordinator. The coordinator will review the details of the complaint and determine whether there are sufficient grounds alleged to pursue a Title IX action against you.
After receiving a complaint and initiating an action, the Title IX coordinator must notify you and any other respondents about the complaint. This notification should include details about the complaint against you, the alleged Title IX violations, and the complainant's name. The notification will also inform you of your rights, the possible sanctions under the action, and that if you don't participate in the investigation or hearing, the action will proceed against you without you.
The Title IX Coordinator will then appoint an investigator who will meet with you and your accuser, review any evidence, and interview witnesses. You should retain a Title IX attorney-advisor as soon as you receive notice of the allegations against you. A Title IX advisor can ensure that the investigator looks at all exculpatory evidence before issuing findings.
4. Investigator's Report
After completing the investigation, the investigator will issue a report with their full findings. Both parties will have the chance to review and respond to the report and offer changes before the investigator sends it to the Title IX coordinator.
5. Decision-Making Phase
After the report, the Title IX action will move into the disciplinary phase. Hearings are optional for Title IX actions in Texas K through 12 schools, but you have the right to a hearing before a neutral arbiter in the college and university setting.
6. Title IX Hearing
At your Title IX hearing, both parties have the right to be represented by their attorney-advisors. You'll also have the right to cross-examine witnesses, including your accuser, challenge evidence, and introduce your own evidence and witnesses.
7. Hearing Determination
Whether you have a panel of arbiters or a single decision-maker for your hearing, they must find that you are responsible “by a preponderance of the evidence,” meaning it's more likely than not that you are responsible for the Title IX violation. Unfortunately, this is a lower bar than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” used in criminal trials.
After the hearing determination, both parties will have the right to appeal the decision within a short time, usually ten business days. You can only file an appeal in very limited circumstances, such as new evidence in the case, the obvious bias of a hearing official, or a mistake about Title IX law. Your attorney-advisor will be crucial to submitting a well-drafted appeal.
An Experienced Title IX Advisor Can Help You
If you're a university employee facing a Title IX allegation, the stakes are high. You could face termination from your employment, and carry a blot on your resume for the rest of you career. If you are a student-employee, an on-the-job Title IX finding can result in your academic suspension or expulsion. This Title IX disciplinary process could derail your entire career and smear your professional and personal reputation. That's why it's so important that you have a Title IX attorney well-versed in defending college employees on your side.
Experienced Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento can help. He and the skilled team at the Lento Law Firm have helped countless college and university employees through the complex Title IX disciplinary process. Call the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 or contact them online to discuss your options.