7 Tips For Responding to Title IX Complaints

In 2014, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will continue to ramp up its Title IX enforcement efforts. Accordingly, universities should carefully review their anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies and procedures to make sure they comply with the law. OCR investigations may be lengthy and broad in scope, often lasting months and extending beyond one particular incident of alleged sexual misconduct. In a typical investigation, the OCR delves into all sexual misconduct complaints filed with a university over an extended period of time and reviews the effectiveness of the university’s Title IX policies.

In order to avoid the intense scrutiny of the OCR, universities should respond to Title IX complaints by —

  1. Listening carefully and taking all complaints seriously;
  2. Informing the victim of available resources and his or her options for formal action (i.e., pursuing the university’s grievance procedure) or informal action;
  3. Conducting a prompt and thorough investigation;
  4. Taking corrective action if the results of the investigation reveal a law or policy violation;
  5. Keeping the complaint confidential to the extent the university can do so consistently with its duty to investigate;
  6. Assuring the person filing the complaint that he or she will not be retaliated against for coming forward; and
  7. Treating the complaining person in the same manner as any other student, faculty/staff member or third party who has not complained of misconduct.

Universities can be proactive by training faculty, staff and teaching assistants on the requirements of Title IX and how to properly handle complaints of sexual misconduct.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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