What is Title IX Retaliation Harassment?

What is Title IX Retaliation Harassment?

Title IX provides legal protection against any kind of retaliation against people involved in an investigation. However, the law being in place doesn’t stop retaliatory actions from happening.

A Title IX case will investigate any alleged discriminatory action that a plaintiff says has been carried out against them. While it’s absolutely essential that this plaintiff’s rights are upheld throughout the investigation, there are also other parties to consider too. The plaintiff and any other involved party can be subject to retaliatory acts because of their involvement in an investigation.

In this guide, we’ll explore Title IX retaliation in some detail – including examples of what this kind of harassment can look like and what you should do if you feel like your involvement in a Title IX case is resulting in any kind of retaliation against you or others.

What does Title IX retaliation look like?

To understand what specific Title IX retaliation looks like, it’s useful to look at a legal definition of ‘retaliation’. According to Cornell, retaliation means “any act of harm committed in response to an actual or perceived harm”.

Using a college campus example, that could mean negative action relating to a person’s studies, including any changes to the person’s education program, accommodation arrangements, the person’s ability to access their education, or even different attitudes taken towards that person by others – thus hindering their ability to study.

Of course, Title IX no longer just applies to students accessing education. Today, these employment discrimination measures apply to any facility receiving federal financial assistance. This includes schools, local and state educational agencies, training institutions, libraries, museums, and a number of other settings. As such, Title IX retaliation can extend to acts including:

  • Demotions
  • Disciplinary action
  • Firing
  • Salary reduction
  • Job reassignment
  • Shift or working pattern reassignment

Such is the scope of action that could be considered retaliatory; the term ‘negative action’ is useful when thinking about the kind of retaliation that could relate to a Title IX case. Put simply, anything that can be deemed to impact your working or studying conditions could potentially be considered to be retaliation.

Some examples of Title IX retaliation

Retaliation between students

It’s probably unsurprising to find out that students who find themselves on different sides of a Title IX investigation can harbor negative feelings towards each other. These feelings will often extend into their peer groups.

Colleges will usually issue a no-contact order between the students involved. Students may find this difficult to abide by if they are members of the same social circles or classmates.

It’s not uncommon for the no-contact order to be breached by one of the involved students reaching out to the other to try to explain what happened, apologize, or clarify. This could be done directly or through third parties.

Regardless of intention, any contact – even simply saying “hello” to the other party could constitute retaliation. The school or college’s sexual misconduct handbook will usually explain what constitutes retaliation and outline the measure they will take to prevent this from occurring. If perceived retaliation does occur, an experienced attorney may decide that a Title IX claim against the school is appropriate, as well as a Title IX retaliation claim against the other party involved.

Retaliation by institutions

As outlined above, students are not the only people who may find themselves involved in a Title IX investigation. Other people involved may include teachers, coaches, support staff, or other employees.

Again, the institution should have strict sexual harassment retaliation guidelines in place – but everyone involved needs to be very clear and diligent about how these rules are enacted and such conduct is policed.

For example. If a student claims a member of the staff team’s inappropriate physical conduct or remarks were because of the student’s sexual orientation, the school should not then exclude that student from accessing any part of their education program – even if it’s in an effort to ensure that teaching and learning go on uninterrupted for others.

Title IX laws protect a huge number of individuals’ characteristics – so the same could be said for discriminatory action that relates to gender identity, marital status, color, national origin, political affiliation, disability, or age – to name just a few.

When retaliation relates to a member of the teaching staff, retaliation could be seen to include:

  • Suspension
  • Termination
  • Transfer
  • Refusal of tenure
  • Refusal of promotion
  • Refusal of pay increases
  • Demotion – and more.

Quite simply, retaliation is not limited to action taken against student complainants or witnesses. Nor is retaliatory action limited to others individuals involved in the process. Decisions made by institutions can also be deemed to be retaliatory.

What happens if the initial event never took place?

Sadly, it’s not uncommon for Title IX laws to be misused – with complaints made where no initial incident has actually taken place. In cases like this, retaliation might feel like a person’s right – an effort to protect their innocence.

Regardless of this, The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) deems retaliation illegal, whether or not the claim is true. As long as the student or employee is deemed a ‘reasonable person’ and the claim is made in good faith, retaliation should not happen.

This can feel unfair if you’re certain that the alleged unlawful discriminatory practices never took place. However, it’s essential that you maintain your excellent conduct. Federal, state, and local laws protect workers and students against retaliation – so your conduct needs to follow these laws to ensure you’re not subject to further legal action.

Investigating Title IX retaliations

Claims of retaliation harassment can be extremely complex to investigate – not least because the alleged perpetration of the harassment will rarely admit that they have been involved in any retaliation.

In many cases, alternative reasons are given for the perceived retaliation. A staff demotion might be attributed to poor performance rather than involvement as a witness against a more senior member of the staff team. Likewise, a student who is removed from a sports team because of their involvement in a Title IX claim could have their removal put down to poor performance.

An experienced attorney will gather huge amounts of information about the retaliation – including looking for precedents set elsewhere in the facility.

Speak to an attorney today

If you feel that your involvement in a Title IX investigation – in any capacity – has led to negative treatment, you should speak to an experienced attorney as quickly as possible. You should not be made to suffer because of your involvement in an important part of U.S. law.

Our experience extends well beyond just working with Title IX cases. We have represented numerous clients who have experienced retaliation after a sexual harassment complaint – an area in which federal law is very similar to that surrounding Title IX retaliation.

We’ll listen to your situation, explain the options you have available, and make sure we do everything possible to remedy your situation.