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How to be a responsible employee in regard to discrimination and harrassment

Take Care DePaul
All DePaul employees, except employees who act as confidential reporters, are required to promptly report sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual and relationship violence to the Title IX Coordinator in the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity. To help ensure DePaul employees, including student employees, understand this responsibility, questions on this topic became part of the university's annual compliance training in 2017. Even still, some faculty and staff may not be aware of their exact responsibilities, and may have questions about how far that responsibility extends.

Title IX, a federal civil rights law included as part of the Educational Amendments of 1972 to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, protects against gender discrimination in education. Later amendments, regulations and guidance around Title IX outlined the duties of institutions of higher education when they have knowledge of sex discrimination as it interferes with a student's right to a discrimination-free education.

"Title IX invokes the notion of a responsible employee - an employee of an institution who becomes aware of sex discrimination, including sexual harassment or violence," explains Karen Tamburro, DePaul's Title IX coordinator. "A responsible employee with that knowledge must report what they know to the institution's Title IX coordinator. Institutions of higher education had broad latitude in defining responsible employee, and different colleges and universities have different operating definitions."

So how did DePaul decide who, exactly, is a 'responsible employee?'

As part of developing and revising university policies regarding sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual and relationship violence, the Sexual and Relationship Violence Prevention and Response Working Group grappled with the issue.

"At the end of the day, DePaul's institutional values weighed heavily on the final definition," says Marla Morgen, senior associate counsel in the Office of the General Counsel.

The Department of Education Office for Civil Rights provided guidance as to the definition in 2001. A responsible employee under Title IX is anyone who has the authority to take action to redress sexual violence; who has been given the duty of reporting incidents of sexual violence or any other misconduct by students to the Title IX coordinator or other appropriate school designee; or whom a student could reasonably believe has this authority or duty.

"The definition is broad and quite flexible," Morgen says. "We also considered DePaul's values and position that sexual and relationship violence is something we should all be concerned about. It naturally followed that the vast majority of employees, except those designated as confidential reporting resources, would be 'responsible employees.'"

Therefore, all employees at DePaul are required to report incidents of sex discrimination to the Title IX coordinator.

"It doesn't matter if it happened before the individual arrived here, if the perpetrator is not associated with DePaul, or if the incident happened off campus: if an employee has knowledge of this type of incident involving one of our students, they must report," Tamburro says.

One of the most immediate concerns after the Title IX coordinator receives a report is supporting the survivor.

"We should all be concerned about our students and their success, and sexual and relationship violence can have a huge impact on that success," says Hannah Retzkin, sexual and relationship violence prevention specialist in the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness. "The process of healing after an incident of sexual or relationship violence is different for each survivor. Their needs can be quite different, and can change over time, so what we offer them is survivor- and situation-specific. It is not always focused on entering a formal process or complaint."

The Title IX coordinator's job is to reach out to the individual and connect them to resources and support, as well as share information about filing a complaint, should that individual want to do so.

In addition, by reporting all incidents to the Title IX coordinator, that person now has a big picture perspective on SRV and other issues at DePaul, and can work to address larger themes or trends that appear.

"If information about these incidents is siloed, we will never see the bigger picture," Tamburro says. "When we see the bigger picture, we can further develop employee training, deliver a new kind of student program around an SRV issue or work to raise general awareness of particular issues."

When a responsible employee becomes aware of an incident of sexual or relationship violence, they must report any relevant information they might have; such as the affected individual, alleged perpetrator, and time, date or location to the Title IX coordinator. Employees can find complete information about reporting obligations here, including a step-by-step faculty and employee guide. Contact the Title IX coordinator by email here.