Michigan State kept ties to coach accused of sexual abuse

CHICAGO — Michigan State University, already reeling from the scandal involving a gymnastics doctor who molested young athletes, has maintained ties to a prominent volleyball coach for decades after he was publicly accused in 1995 of sexually abusing and raping six underage girls he trained in the 1980s.


Letters obtained by the Associated Press from advocates for the accusers reveal the school has been under pressure for at least a year to sever its relationship with Rick Butler. He runs training facilities in suburban Chicago that for decades have been a pipeline for top volleyball recruits, including Michigan State. MSU also held exhibition games for successive years at his facilities, at least through 2014, according to online records.  For the full article, click here…. 


Fmr. Professor files Defamation, Retaliation and National Origin Discrimination claim vs. Duke University

June Cho, former professor with Duke University has filed a Retaliation, Defamation and National Origin claim against Duke University in the U.S. District Court, Middle District of North Carolina (Durham) on April 13, 2018.  The original Guilford Co. Superior Court complaint can be seen here… Duke Complaint


Pierre R. Berastaín Ojeda to lead Harvard Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response

Pierre Berastaín Ojeda ’10, M.Div. ’14, has been appointed director of the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (OSAPR), starting in June, Harvard University announced today.  Berastaín returns to Harvard from the National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities, a federally funded, Latino-specific institute for gender-based violence in the U.S. In his role as assistant director there, Berastaín led multiyear federal grant programs under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Justice and conducted training nationally on sexual assault, intimate-partner violence, and stalking. He worked with federal agencies, colleges and universities, state coalitions addressing domestic and sexual violence, shelters, and community programs on violence intervention and prevention initiatives.  For the full article, click here… 


Head of sexual assault and discrimination office at USU removed following report of unchecked misconduct, harassment

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah State University announced Wednesday that the school’s president had removed Stacy Sturgeon from her position as Title IX coordinator in response to an investigation that found gender discrimination and sexual misconduct went unchecked for years in the school’s music department, according to Tim Vitale, a spokesman for the university.


The move comes nearly two weeks after the school released the findings of an independent investigative report which reflected interviews with 60 witnesses and hundreds of pages of documents. The report stated that between 1994 and 2012, students or parents complained of a series of incidents involving sexual harassment by four members of the music department faculty.   

The move comes nearly two weeks after the school released the findings of an independent investigative report which reflected interviews with 60 witnesses and hundreds of pages of documents. The report stated that between 1994 and 2012, students or parents complained of a series of incidents involving sexual harassment by four members of the music department faculty.

In conjunction with the report’s release, USU President Noelle Cockett announced changes to the piano program faculty and said that the office that oversees harassment and sexual misconduct complaints would be reorganized.  For the full article, click here…   

Auburn University re-evaluating Title IX policies and procedures

Auburn University is re-evaluating its Title IX policies and procedures in the midst of a national movement combating sexual assault and misconduct.  Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination, including sexual misconduct in educational institutions that receive federal financial aid. Title IX coordinators at Auburn and other schools have the responsibility to determine whether allegations may constitute prohibited sexual conduct, and appointing a team to investigate each Title IX claim.  For the full article, click here… 

The University of Michigan will now allow “alternative resolutions” to resolve certain sexual violence cases, a step some survivor advocates have opposed.

In of the first major schools to adopt the September 2017 Title IX policy changes, the University of Michigan will now allow certain cases of sexual assault to be resolved with mediation and other methods, such as sexual violence classes for accused students, a move the university believes could help victims who don’t want to pursue an arduous formal process.

Survivor advocates, however, caution that colleges often steer students toward what could be a less complicated path for the university, but one that could go against victims’ wishes.  For the full article, click here…


Illegal Interview Questions

During a job interview, have you ever been asked any of the following questions?

  • Do you have kids?
  • Are you planning on having kids?
  • How soon?
  • Are you married?
  • Thinking about getting married?
  • To a man or a woman?
  • Will anyone else be relocating to your new job city with you?
  • What do you think about working in an all-female department?
  • Lundsteen — is that a Dutch name? Danish?
  • Are you a U.S. citizen?

Illegal interview questions have been around for as long as there have been interviews, and there are many very good articles and resources available to help you determine what illegal interview questions are, along with ideas on how to answer or not answer them. But once identified, how do you decide what actions to take? And what are the types of actions you can take?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has guidelines for what is and what is not OK to screen for when hiring employees. Since it is illegal to discriminate against an applicant because of race, religion, pregnancy status, age or health, hiring managers are advised against asking questions that relate to these issues.

The Associated Press and CNBC conducted a poll of 1,054 Americans and found that a significant percentage report having been asked illegal questions. Sixty-five percent of respondents had interviewed for a job in the past 10 years and 33 percent had interviewed for a job 10 years ago or more (a remaining 2 percent reported never having interviewed for a job.)

A full 35 percent said they have been asked about their age while 21 percent were asked about their medical history or whether they have a disability.  Over 10 percent were asked whether they were pregnant or about their plans to have children while about 10 percent of respondents were even asked about their religious beliefs.


Jacquelyn Gilbert, professional career consultant and President & CEO of JW Warren LLC (http://www.jw-warrenllc.com), states “employers find it beneficial to make staffing decisions based on candidates’ scheduling restrictions. Often times, the questions that are asked are illegal. There are ways to rephrase questions in order to find out the information needed to make that decision. A question can be phrased as, “This shifts schedule would be Monday through Friday from 9am-5pm, would anything prevent you from working those hours?”

For a great introduction to questions to ask and not to ask click here – Industry best practice is to avoid interview questions that violate the law, are designed to elicit questions about the candidate’s family life, personal life, children, etc.

The Higher Ed. “Sham” Interview – A Title VII analysis of a common hiring scenario

While the unethical practice of conducting “sham” job interviews has been explored, considered and analyzed in the corporate setting and in sports, it has largely been ignored in higher education.  The “sham interview” of course being the practice of conducting a bad faith job interview where the unwitting candidate has no actual chance at being hired for the position, but the interview is offered despite this fact in order to satisy a diversity-driven quota, rule or requirement that the employer must meet.

To be sure, this practice is unethical and clearly erodes confidence in the hiring process.  But is it a violation of the law and illegal under Title VII?  This question presents uncharted ground in Title VII legal analysis.  Title VII, the federal law that prohibits most workplace harassment and discrimination, covers all private employers, state and local governments, and educational institutions with 15 or more employees.  In addition to prohibiting discrimination against workers because of race, color, national origin, religion, and sex, those protections have been extended to include barring against discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, sex stereotyping, and sexual harassment of employees.


In higher education, the sham interview is especially egregious because of the scarcity of resources of many institutions and the legal and PR fallout that may occur afterwards.  The practice may be found to be illegal not necessarily because of the act itself, but because the person who is ultimately hired for the position may not be as qualified or experienced as those who were given the “sham” interview.  If evidence reveals that the sham interview candidates were treated in this way due to race, color, national origin, etc., then a claim would be actionable under Title VII.

Best practice dictates that higher education employers avoid “sham” interviews and only interview candidates who are qualified and who have an actual good-faith opportunity to be hired for the postion.  See 2004 WL 2075159 for the financial impact in higher education for conducting sham interviews and a subsequent Title VII claim.

Title IX and Defamation: An Emerging Challenge Facing Higher-Education Institutions

There is currently a national focus on gender-based harassment. College campuses are no different. Even with the changes to Title IX guidance in the past months,1 eliminating sexual harassment and assault on campuses remains a national priority. One overlooked result of this focus is defamation litigation facing higher-education institutions.


Students found to have violated university sexual harassment and sexual misconduct policies are fighting back in the courts. According to a 2015 study by United Educators (a large national insurance provider for colleges and universities), approximately 60% of Title IX-related lawsuits are brought by respondents (those accused of sexual misconduct).2 Respondents are asserting defamation claims against the individual who accused them as well as the university that disciplined them. The idea is that statements made by the accuser, through the course of a campus sexual assault investigation, are defamatory if the statements can be shown to be false. It has been reported that 72% of accused students who file a Title IX-related lawsuit against their university also sue their individual accuser for defamation.  For the full article, click here…