Responsible Employees: Employee Obligation to Notify IDHR about Allegations of Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Harassment Involving Students
MIT employees (including faculty and staff) must promptly inform the Institute Discrimination & Harassment Response Office (form linked above) when they are informed of an incident related to any of the following behaviors involving an MIT student:
- Sexual Misconduct (which is an umbrella term)
- Sexual Harassment
- Dating or Domestic Violence
IDHR refers to employees with this obligation as “Responsible Employees.” Graduate resident advisors, teaching assistants, and other students with advising or teaching responsibilities are considered Responsible Employees when they are informed of an incident due to their respective role.
Staff who are designated as Confidential Resources are not Responsible Employees.
To read the full policy visit section 220.127.116.11 of MIT’s Policies & Procedures.
Additional Obligation for Managers and Supervisors
In addition to the Responsible Employee obligation described above, if a manager or supervisor is informed of an allegation that an MIT employee violated MIT’s policies against sexual harassment, sexual misconduct (which includes dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking), or discrimination or discriminatory harassment based on a protected status, the supervisor must promptly notify IDHR (form linked above).
This obligation to notify IDHR applies to allegations that any MIT employee violated one of these policies, even if the employee does not report to that supervisor. The supervisor should also contact the department Administrative Officer or human resources professional, or contact their human resources officer or professional in the central human resources office.
To read the full policy visit section 7.3.1 of MIT’s Policies & Procedures.
While non-managers/supervisors do not have this additional obligation, we urge all members of the community to inform IDHR of situations involving employees being subjected to discrimination or discriminatory harassment so IDHR can reach out to those employees to provide information about the full range of options available to them.
If you have any questions about your role, please email email@example.com. Please also read through this guide developed by our office to help you understand your roles and provide you with sample scripts and resource referral information below.
Although many individuals in the community know about their role as Responsible Employees, they may not be as familiar with what happens once they fulfill their role by informing IDHR. We encourage Responsible Employees to better understand this piece of the process. Being able to explain IDHR's process to someone who has experienced harm can decrease their anxiety and ensure they are aware of their options. We've created a helpful resource for Responsible Employees to share with someone who is disclosing.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I tell a student or employee that I am a Responsible Employee?
We recognize it can feel uncomfortable to interrupt someone while they are sharing something important, to let them know of your role as a Responsible Employee. We encourage employees to frame this as an opportunity to empower the individual by giving them a choice about whether they will disclose to you. By gently interrupting, you can let them know you care about what they are saying - or about to say - and want them to make an informed decision about whether or not to continue. Here are some guidelines for how to approach the conversation:
- Listen without judgement
- Avoid questions that imply fault
- Offer support
- Let them know you will need to disclose to the IDHR Office, but they can choose what options are best for them.
How do I fulfill my role as a Responsible Employee?
There are multiple ways to inform the IDHR Office of what you have learned. It is not your job to investigate, so please don’t ask detailed questions of the person disclosing to you. You can contact the IDHR Office through three methods:
- Use our online Responsible Employee Notification Form
- Call IDHR at 617-715-4080
- Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Our staff will respond to you quickly and acknowledge receipt of the information you have provided. If there are additional questions, IDHR staff may contact you to learn more about what you have described. At that point, your obligation has been fulfilled. We encourage you to contact the person who disclosed and let them know you have informed the IDHR Office and someone from IDHR will reach out to them by email soon.
What happens once I fulfill my obligation to inform the IDHR Office?
IDHR staff will email the impacted individual and invite them to meet and discuss the resources and reporting options available to them. Options can include informal measures (academic accommodations, housing change, no-contact orders, etc.), or formal complaint and investigation options, including reporting to the police or pursuing a formal complaint process. The individual has no obligation to meet with IDHR, or to pursue any action. However, IDHR staff will assess the report for safety threats, and the Institute will take action when necessary to ensure campus safety. Individuals may decide to meet with IDHR staff at any point in the future, even if they initially decline to do so. Individuals whose alleged conduct gives rise to a formal MIT internal investigation will receive prompt written notice with details of the allegation(s), and will have the opportunity to present information on their own behalf.
What should I do as an employee if a co-worker complains to me that they are being sexually harassed?
First and foremost, listen without judgment, offer support and connect the individual with resources such as Violence Prevention and Response. If you are not a manager or supervisor, you are not required to inform IDHR. We hope you will still encourage community members to contact IDHR to learn more about the full range of options available to them, including informal remedies and formal investigations. If you are a manager or supervisor, you are required to inform IDHR of what you have learned, so IDHR staff can reach out to the impacted individual and provide them with up-to-date resources and reporting options.
Why does the Responsible Employee obligation exist?
We recognize the designation of “Responsible Employee” may make some employees and students uncomfortable, but it is important to understand why this designation exists. There are three reasons why the Institute designates most employees as “Responsible Employees:"
- Although we encourage community members to educate themselves on the policies and procedures of MIT via the required online trainings during onboarding, we recognize it is not feasible to train every individual on the reporting options, resources, policies, and legal regulations designated by federal laws like Title IX and Title VII. Instead of asking each employee to memorize nuanced and ever-changing reporting details, we instead prioritize connecting impacted individuals to the IDHR Office, where they can get access to up-to-date and accurate information about their resources and reporting options.
- Prior to the “Responsible Employee” designation, if an individual disclosed to a faculty or staff member, the employee could choose to not support the individual in seeking help, because they had no obligation to do something with this information. By establishing a requirement to inform the IDHR Office, we ensure that no community member’s needs are missed, and decrease the number of times an individual is asked to tell their story.
- Sometimes an individual may not feel comfortable speaking with the IDHR Office directly about an incident or experience, and may feel more comfortable talking to someone with whom they have an established rapport. This person can connect the student to IDHR to ensure they do not feel alone.
Below are some suggested responses based on possible scenarios.
If an individual seems like they want to tell you something sensitive, but is hesitant or wants you to promise “not to tell anyone”:
In this situation, it is important to let the student know your reporting obligations and offer to continue talking with them or connect them with a confidential resource.
“I’m glad you want to talk to me about a concern and you feel comfortable speaking with me about something that I can see may be difficult to talk about. I want to make sure you understand my role here. I will do everything I can to protect your privacy but depending on what you tell me I may need to inform another administrator at the Institute.
“I am happy to talk to you more about your concerns, however if you would like to talk with someone on campus who can assure you a higher level of confidentiality, I can immediately connect you with a counselor at Mental Health or an advocate from Violence Prevention and Response (VPR).
“My main concern is your safety and well-being, so I want to ensure that you understand what my role might be in the process. I am happy to listen more if you feel comfortable speaking with me further.”
If a student discloses an incident of sexual misconduct before you could explain your reporting obligations and is NOT in immediate crisis:
Listen to the student without asking questions. When it feels appropriate, inform the student of your obligation to notify the IDHR Office. This will allow the student to continue talking to you and also decide what information they may want to share and what information they may want to keep private.
“Thank you very much for talking with me about your experience. I am very sorry to hear about what occurred. I want to assure you that we will handle this matter in a sensitive manner and that we take these concerns extremely seriously. I want to let you know that I have a responsibility to inform the IDHR Staff who can help address your concerns and ensure we are responding appropriately. Someone will contact you soon to inform you of your options. Please know that any response will be guided by what you would like to do.”
If a student discloses an incident of sexual misconduct and IS in crisis:
Listen to the student and when you identify that they need immediate, additional support, inform them that you can call Violence Prevention and Response’s helpline (a trained advocate is available to speak with the student) or the MIT Police Department. Getting the student connected is the primary concern. If explaining your reporting obligations might be stressful or overwhelming at this time, you can revisit this with them at a later time. Ensure that the student is connected to support services and contact the IDHR Office to discuss the next steps.