By: Megan Spicer
Cohen Seglias Partner Chris Carusone was interviewed by Megan Spicer for her Connecticut Law Tribune article, “Law Firms Find New Niche Conducting Sex Assault Investigations for Colleges,” regarding the Firm’s recent launch of their joint Title IX Initiative with Day Pitney, LLP. The full article is on the Connecticut Law Tribune website.
Two years ago, the University of Connecticut reached a $1.3 million settlement when seven students claimed the school failed to properly handle their sexual assault complaints. Meanwhile, Wesleyan University is currently involved in a lawsuit brought by a tenured professor who claims an administrator sexually harassed her and then retaliated against her when she tried to put a stop to it.
These types of cases are part of a growing trend in which students and faculty members claim that colleges and universities aren’t adequately investigating their complaints about sexual misconduct. Nationwide, such cases have steadily increased as complaints are filed faster than they can be resolved, resulting in overworked general counsels at many schools.
To help universities comply with the federal policies and ensure that investigations are being conducted properly, lawyers from Connecticut-based Day Pitney and Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman have come together to create a Title IX investigations team. Other Connecticut lawyers agree that it could be beneficial for universities to reach out to outside counsel to ensure that students and the school are legally protected.
Title IX was enacted in 1972 to protect people from discrimination based on gender in educational institutions that receive federal financial assistance. Though often associated with faculty employment and sports team participation, Title IX also applies to how academic institutions are handling complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence.
Title IX investigations start with a complaint made to a school, either by a student, faculty member or staff member. It’s there that the law firms’ team would step in. “One of the nice things about this partnership is that we complement each other geographically, which means we can respond very quickly to put the right team on the ground and get them on campus and start prompting an investigation while the evidence is still fresh,” said Christopher Carusone, an attorney with Cohen Seglias in Pennsylvania.