College employees accused of Title IX misconduct face one of the most intense situations of their careers. In today's political and cultural climate, if a college or university doesn't act quickly or fails to sanction violations stringently, the institution risks losing its valuable federal funding by the exacting regulations of Title IX. If you're a college employee accused of Title IX misconduct in North Carolina or elsewhere, it's vital that you take the situation with the seriousness it deserves.
The grievance process for Title IX allegations is burdensome on college employees, but they have the right to choose an advisor to help with their defense. That advisor can be—and should be—a Title IX attorney armed with the experiential knowledge to protect your reputation and future.
How Does Title IX Work?
The U.S. Congress passed federal legislation establishing Title IX in 1972 prohibiting sex and gender-based discrimination in education programs or activities receiving federal funding. The law remains the primary approach used by institutions of higher education to discipline sexual misconduct allegations. New Title IX guidelines will also cover various forms of harassment that are now punishable under the law 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 applies to not only elementary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education but also a vast spectrum of training programs and workshops. Occasionally, North Carolina professors, coaches, and staff are involved in community events and activities that rely on their acumen. Even though they are not operating at the college or college-sponsored event, since they are an employee of a North Carolina school, Title IX will still apply to them engaging in activities like:
- 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
- Vocational courses in North Carolina prisons and jails receiving money from the Department of Justice
Title IX Restructuring
The Title IX grievance process is structured to grant the accuser and the accused due process. However, many Trump-era enforcement guidelines like in-person hearings, formal reporting channels in schools, the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, and having an outside advisor present, are scheduled to be rolled back by the Biden Administration.
Furthermore, the Department of Justice has added language to the law to "fully enforce civil rights laws to prevent discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation," according to a White House press release.
Title IX Reporting Requirements for North Carolina College Employees
Under current Title IX law, institutions of higher education may have mandatory reporting requirements for all faculty, staff, and part-time employees. Yet, some designate particular employees to be official resources, also known as "responsible employees," under the Clery Act. While guidelines vary from school to school, they will be located in its employee or faculty handbook or student code of conduct.
There are exemptions to the rule as some employees are not considered mandated reporters but are "confidential resources" and include university counselors, pastors, and student health providers.
According to the University of North Carolina (UNC) Pembroke, those employed by the college designated as responsible employees include:
- All faculty
- All staff with supervisory duties over employees and/or students
- Part-time student employees within student affairs offices, financial aid, admissions, academic tutoring programs, training and athletics, resident advisors, tour guides, and student government members.
Lenoir-Rhyne University issues a general mandated reporting requirement for Title IX misconduct. Those required to report are:
- Full-time employees
- Part-time employees
- Adjunct employees
- Any other individuals employed by the school, including vendors
However, some schools are somewhat vague in whom they name as responsible employees. For example, at Elizabeth City State University, responsible employees include:
- An employee with the authority to take action to redress sex discrimination
- An employee given the duty of reporting incidents to the Title IX Coordinator
- An employee whom a person could reasonably believe has this authority or duty
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 North Carolina college employees, ignorance will not be a defense.
How Does the Title IX Grievance Process Work?
Once a responsible employee or student informs the school's Title IX Coordinator of allegations, the institution will have "actual knowledge" of the incident, and the grievance process will begin. While schools and programs differ on the amount of time given to certain aspects of the process—notices of investigations and hearings, response to evidence, appeals—most proceed similarly.
At Eastern Carolina University, the investigation phase proceeds as follows:
- The Title IX Coordinator contacts the accuser (Complainant) to discuss the allegations.
- The Title IX Coordinator informs the accused (Respondent) about the allegations and explains 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.
The hearing phase will begin once the final report is sent to the Title IX Coordinator.
- The Complainant and Respondent will have the opportunity to make an opening statement.
- The Decision-Maker(s) will permit each party's advisor to cross-examine the other party and witnesses.
- The Complainant and Respondent may make closing remarks.
- The Decision-Maker(s) will base their determination of responsibility on the "preponderance of evidence" (greater than 50 percent convinced).
Parties may appeal due to only a few circumstances. At Duke University, they include:
- New information not reasonably available at the time of the hearing that is material to the decision emerges
- Procedural error(s) that materially impacted the decision
Title IX Consequences for College Employees
If a college employee is found responsible for Title IX misconduct, punishments are severe. UNC Chapel Hill details its sanctions as:
- Termination of employment
- Suspension without pay
- Reduction in compensation
- Letter of Reprimand
Consequences will follow a college employee long after the end of the school's disciplinary process. For example, Title IX violators will have the offense detailed on their employee records, causing challenges for them to be hired by another school. Sanctions also interfere with obtaining federal financial aid and make some ineligible for professional licenses and jobs.
How Can a Title IX Attorney Help?
Title IX misconduct will endanger your future. If you're accused, you must defend yourself in a fast-paced process with complicated rules. Title IX advisor Joseph D. Lento understands federal Title IX law fluctuations. He built his career on advising and defending college employees from Title IX misconduct allegations in North Carolina and across the country. His dedicated team at the Lento Law Firm knows how the administrative process works and can 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.