Florida Gulf Coast University is getting used to federal court. Yesterday it was named in yet another sex discrimination lawsuit, this one brought by former general counsel Wendy Morris, who was terminated last July.
Morris's complaint alleges that she was retaliated against by the former interim president, Richard Pegnetter for urging the University to take seriously the charges of sex discrimination raised by emerita Athletic Director Merrily Dean Baker. Rather than include Morris in the University's official response to the letter -- a response that included calling Baker's claims "unsubstantiated" before conducting any internal investigation into the veracity of her claims -- Pegnetter ensured that Morris could not even obtain a copy of the letter. After urging Pegnetter to retain an independent expert to conduct a Title IX investigation and to allow her office to assist efforts to find and correct Title IX problems, Pegnetter responded by announcing Morris's suspension in a mass email (Morris found out about the suspension from someone who forwarded the email to her). Morris then informed the Trustees of her suspicions that Pegnetter was attempting to cover up Title IX problems, including his decision to suspend her. This was a violation of a gag order that Pegnetter imposed on Morris earlier that year, in response and retaliation for her advice to the Athletics Department that it could not lawfully fire volleyball coach Jaye Flood based on the present contents of her file. (We've blogged about Morris's warnings to Assistant AD Kathy Peterson in prior posts about Flood's separate lawsuit.)
Morris was terminated soon after communicating with the Trustees.
In addition to back pay, she is seeking to ensure that the University forgo any federal funding conditioned on Title IX compliance, as well as a court order that the University comply with Title IX.