The obligations of educational institutions were elevated even higher in a recent ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which held “When universities design and implement polices to ensure the security of their students, they facilitate their sacred mission of educating the next generation. But when they distort and deviate from those policies, fearfully deferring to invidious stereotypes and crediting malicious accusations, they may violate the law….” In this particular case, a discharged tennis director, whose employment was terminated following allegations of sexual harassment, was allowed to proceed with his own claims of discrimination.
Citing a recent Title IX ruling, the Court held that when universities do not follow established investigative procedures in favor of one gender over another, that conduct may constitute discrimination. Relying on the Doe decision, the Court held that “once a university has promised procedural protections to employees, the disregard or abuse of those procedures may raise an inference of bias”.
This decision serves as a dramatic reminder that educational institutions should follow the proscriptions in their anti-harassment policies in a thorough and unbiased way. In effect, once procedural protections are announced, they should be followed.