Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Another Fresno Coach Prepares for Trial

Fresno State prepares to defend itself in a second employment discrimination trial of the year. This time, the plaintiff is former women's basketball coach Stacy Johnson-Klein. Like Lindy Vivas, the former volleyball coach who won a $5.85 million verdict against the university in July, Johnson-Klein alleges that she lost her job as part of Fresno State athletic department's discriminatory and retaliatory practices against female coaches and administrators. Johnson-Klein's testimony at Vivas's trial described the misogynist and homophobic culture of the athletic department.

Johnson-Klein's trial starts next week, but yesterday the judge made a pretrial decision to allow the jury to hear evidence of Johnson-Klein's former addiction to pain medication following a car accident. Fresno State is expected to argue that this, not gender discrimination, is the reason she lost her job, and Johnson-Klein's attorney will try to convince a jury that this rationale is merely a pretext to cover up its unlawful discriminatory motives.

This fact of Johnson-Klein's vicodin issue seems to have been well publicized, so I don't think any jurors will be hearing this for the first time at the trial. In fact, from her perspective, it is probably better to have the evidence come in, so that her lawyer can address it square on, rather than have to wonder whether the jury is considering it anyway. But owing to this particular dimension of Johnson-Klein's case, I agree with KFSN that her trial "will be very different from the Vivas case."

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