Federal Laws Regarding Sexual Harassment

There are three federal laws that establish responsibilities for employees of colleges and universities to report certain categories of crimes and incidents, including sexual misconduct—the Clery Act, Title VII and Title IX.

Although each of these areas of federal law has a different purpose, the laws are generally intended to protect members of college communities, especially students on campuses, from criminal and discriminatory behavior. The responsibilities established by these laws give rise to the term “mandatory or mandated reporter."

This website explains the meaning and purpose of mandated reporters, outlines the legal context, and articulates a straightforward set of guidelines for employees to follow.  Faculty and professional staff includes all employees from all divisions of the College with the exception of contracted service providers such as Sodexo employees.

The Legal Context

The Clery Act

The Clery Act creates a duty for institutions to report crimes in 15 different categories and has the broadest scope. The College, rather than individual community members, bears the duty to report these crimes, and failure to do so can result in substantial fines being imposed on the institution by the U.S. Department of Education. Guided by the language of the Clery Act and subsequent amendments, the College is required to define which employees must report crime information they receive.

The language of the Act allows institutions to exclude many professional staff and some faculty in some circumstances from the obligation to report. However, the College has determined that such an approach risks creating confusion for faculty and professional staff, takes a minimalist approach to the ethical obligation to inform our community about serious crimes, and makes the institution more vulnerable to enforcement action. For this reason, all faculty and professional staff at F&M have specified obligations and responsibilities for reporting.

Title VII

Title VII focuses on sexual harassment in the workplace, and failure to take appropriate action can lead to financial liability for the College. In this case, the law creates a duty to report for employees who supervise other employees, including students being paid by the College. As with the Clery Act, this language means that some faculty and professional staff would be expected to report while others might be exempted. Again, however, this selective approach may create confusion and risk; and it fails to ask all of us to share the responsibility to create a work place free of sexual harassment. Therefore, all faculty and professional staff at F&M have specified responsibilities.

Title IX

Title IX focuses on the adverse consequences faced by victims of gender discrimination and sexual harassment and creates obligations for the College to investigate and to provide a “prompt and effective remedy.” If the victim is a student, Title IX means among other things that the College must provide a safe environment that does not interfere with the victim’s right to pursue an education. The College incurs this obligation when a victim has given notice to a “responsible employee,” or when the College, in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known about the assault or harassment. As with the other laws, the definition of “responsible employee” under Title IX would allow the College to treat only some faculty and professional staff as mandated reporters, but with the possibility of confusion and risk of institutional exposure the College has designated all faculty and professional staff as mandated reporters.