Employees have certain responsibilities based on their positions, and institutions should designate and clearly outline those responsibilities.
(Learn more from the NCCADV’s Model Policy and Guidance documents, see pg 27)
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) requires that certain employees on campus be deemed Responsible Employees.
A responsible employee includes any employee:
- Who has the authority to take action to redress IPV, stalking, or sexual violence;
- Who has been given the duty of notifying the Title IX Coordinator or other appropriate school designee (typically managers and supervisors) of incidents of IPV, stalking, sexual violence or any other misconduct involving students;
- whom a student could reasonably believe has this authority or duty.
A school must make clear to all of its employees and students which staff members are responsible employees so that students can make informed decisions about whether to disclose information to those employees.
A school must also inform all employees of their own reporting responsibilities and the importance of informing the reporting party of:
- The obligations of responsible employees to notify the institution;
- Reporting parties’ option to request confidentiality and available confidential advocacy, counseling, or other support services;
- Reporting parties’ right to file a Title IX complaint with the school and to report a crime to campus or local law enforcement.
When a responsible employee knows or reasonably should know of possible IPV, stalking, or sexual violence, OCR deems a school to have been put on notice of the violence. The school must take immediate and appropriate steps to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred (subject to the confidentiality provisions), and, if the school determines that the violence created a hostile environment, the school must then take appropriate steps to address the situation. (‘Addressing the situation’ can but does not necessarily mean adjudication of a specific incident.)
The US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights’ Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence 2014 Guidance is an excellent resource for understanding details around responsible employees.
Confidential* and Private Employees
(Learn more from the NCCADV’s Model Policy and Guidance documents, see pg 28)
Confidential Employees - This includes those whose job responsibility it is to provide medical or mental-health counseling to members of the school community (and including those who act in that role under the supervision of a licensed counselor), including:
- Medical professionals
- Professional, licensed counselors
- Pastoral/faith-based counselors
These people are not required or are legally unable to share any information about an incident of abuse with the Title IX coordinator without a victim’s/survivor’s permission. Those persons identified by their institution as Confidential Employees should clarify the extent of the requirements of their confidential status with their supervisor.
Private Employees - Campus Non-professional Counselors and Advocates: Individuals who work or volunteer in the on-campus sexual/relationship violence center, victim/survivor advocacy office, women’s center, health center etc., including front desk staff and students**, can generally talk to a victim/survivor without revealing any personally identifying information about an incident to the institution.
This, however, will depend on the institution’s designation of confidential versus private reporting sources, as well as potential state laws. A victim/survivor can disclose to and seek assistance from these individuals without activating an investigation that could reveal their identity.
Responsibility to file limited reports: These individuals do not have to release identifying information about a victim/survivor, but are mandated to report the nature, date, time and general location of an incident to the office responsible for collecting Clery (statistical) information about crimes on campus. This limited report includes NO information that would directly or indirectly identify the victim/survivor. It helps keep the university informed of the general extent and nature of gender-based violence on and off campus in order to track patterns, evaluate the scope of the problem, and formulate appropriate campus-wide responses. Before reporting any information to the Title IX Coordinator or Clery Compliance Officer, these individuals will advise the victim/survivor that the information will be reported but that no personally identifying details will be shared.
* There are always exceptions to confidentiality, particularly if there is risk of serious harm to self or others.
**Guidance from the Department of Education in April 2014 makes clear that on-campus counselors and advocates – like those who work or volunteer in sexual violence centers, victim/survivor advocacy offices, women’s and health centers, as well as licensed and pastoral counselors – can talk to a victim/survivor in confidence. In recent years, some schools have indicated that some of these counselors and advocates cannot maintain confidentiality. This new guidance clarifies that they can.