Facing Title IX allegations can be one of the most critical situations a college employee will face in their career. Since a college or university's federal funding is tied to regulations governed by Title IX, a school must address misconduct swiftly and harshly. If you're a college employee accused of Title IX misconduct in Michigan or elsewhere, it's essential that you take the situation and its consequences seriously.
Although a school's Title IX grievance process is taxing on college employees, they have the opportunity to choose an advisor to help with their defense. That advisor can be—and should be—a proven Title IX attorney with the knowledge and experience to fight for you to keep your position and protect your reputation.
How Does Title IX Work?
In 1972, the U.S. Congress passed Title IX legislation that prevents sex and gender-based discrimination in any educational program or activity that receives federal funding. It's the primary method institutions of higher education use to handle instances of sexual misconduct. Title IX guidelines also include various forms of harassment in addition to current violations:
- Dating/Domestic violence
- Failure to report Title IX misconduct
- Providing false information to Title IX personnel
- Sexual assault, discrimination, and exploitation
Title IX also applies to a wide range of workshops and training programs funded by the U.S. government. Sometimes, Michigan professors, coaches, and staff are sought to manage or teach in community events and activities that rely on their expertise. Since they're an employee of a Michigan college, Title IX will still apply as they engage in activities such as:
- Boater safety courses sponsored by county parks and recreation departments receiving funds from the U.S. Coast Guard
- Community gardening workshops funded by the Department of Agriculture
- Local sports teams managed by county parks and recreations department receiving funding from the Department of the Interior
Title IX Restructuring
Many Trump-era enforcement guidelines like live hearings, official reporting channels, cross-examination, and other due process measures are scheduled to be eliminated by the Biden Administration. Moreover, the Department of Justice has included language in Title IX to "fully enforce civil rights laws to prevent discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation," per a White House press release.
Title IX Reporting Requirements for Michigan College Employees
Title IX law states that postsecondary schools may create their own report requirements to funnel misconduct allegations to an institution's Title IX Coordinator. Some colleges and universities may enforce mandatory reporting for all faculty, staff, and part-time employees. Other schools may designate certain employees as "responsible employees," who are required to report allegations.
There are exemptions to the rule as some employees aren't considered mandated reporters but are "confidential resources" and include university counselors, pastors, and student health providers. Guidelines detailing this will vary from school to school, but they are found in the school's student code of conduct or faculty or employee handbook.
According to the University of Michigan, those employed by the college with mandated reporting requirements, known as Individuals with Reporting Obligations (IROs), include:
- All faculty and staff
- Part-time student employees, including resident advisors, interns, tour guides, and student government members.
Some schools like Michigan State University also have reporting guidelines for those volunteering with the school program or activity.
Although colleges and universities differ on whom they consider for mandated reporting, an employee is required as a part of their onboarding process to be kept abreast of the responsibility and is given training materials. Therefore, in cases of Title IX allegations against Michigan college employees, ignorance will not be a defense.
How Does the Title IX Grievance Process Work?
Once the school's Title IX Coordinator is made aware of an instance of misconduct, the institution will have "actual knowledge," triggering the Title IX grievance process. While colleges and universities vary in the time given to different process aspects—notices of investigations and hearings, response to evidence, appeals—most proceed similarly.
At Wayne State University, the investigation phase will be conducted as follows:
- The accuser (Complainant) will discuss the allegations with the Title IX Coordinator.
- The Title IX Coordinator will inform the accused (Respondent) about the allegations and detail their rights, including the right to be presumed "not responsible" and to choose an advisor.
- An Investigator(s) will gather evidence and interview the Complainant, Respondent, and witnesses involved.
- The Investigator(s) will send a preliminary report to both parties, who will have a short time to respond.
Once a final report is compiled and sent to the Title IX Coordinator, a determination will be made if a hearing is needed.
The hearing phase will move forward as follows:
- The Complainant and Respondent will make an opening statement.
- Each party's advisor will cross-examine the other party and witnesses.
- The Complainant and Respondent make closing remarks.
- The Hearing Officer will base their determination of responsibility on the "preponderance of evidence," meaning more than 50 percent convinced.
Appealing Title IX Misconduct
Appeals may be exercised only for a few circumstances. College employee respondents have only seven calendar days upon the official notification of the determination to file an appeal. At Central Michigan University, an appeal may be filed to the Office of the President if:
- A procedural irregularity affected the outcome
- New evidence that was not reasonably available when a determination regarding responsibility was made emerged
- The Title IX Coordinator, Investigator(s), or Hearing Officer had a conflict of interest or bias
- The sanctions imposed were disproportionate to the findings
Title IX Consequences for College Employees
If a college employee is found responsible for Title IX misconduct, punishments are severe. The University of Michigan's sanctions include:
- Termination of employment
- Suspension without pay
- Loss of staff privileges
- Reduction in compensation
- Restriction from future employment
- Letter of Reprimand
Title IX consequences are long-lasting. For instance, violators may be barred indefinitely from working at the institution or any college-sponsored activities.
Additionally, the college employee will have the offense detailed on their record, making it challenging to get a job at another school. The University of Michigan's College of Engineering requires the public disclosure of current and previous violations upon request by third parties. Disciplinary investigations alone may have to be disclosed on some applications for professional licenses and federal clearances required for many government jobs. Indeed, any measure of discipline can interfere with employment status, awards, scholarships, financial aid, and career opportunities.
How Can a Title IX Attorney Help?
Defending yourself against Title IX misconduct is a daunting task. If you're accused, you must defend yourself through a rigorous process with complex rules.
Title IX advisor Joseph D. Lento understands federal Title IX law fluctuations. He constructed his lengthy career on advising and fighting for college employees facing Title IX misconduct allegations in Michigan and across the country. His dedicated team at the Lento Law Firm recognizes the process's nuances and strategizes to negotiate fair settlements for college employees to continue their work. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or through its online form.