Thursday, May 12, 2011

Retaliation Case Against Texas Southern University Dismissed

Last week a federal court in Texas dismissed a former coach's claims that he was fired by Texas Southern University in retaliation for his Title IX advocacy. Cummings alleged that one week prior to his termination, he met with Athletic Director and raised concerns about the comparatively lower number of assistant coaches allowed for the women's basketball, as well as a lower budget for recruiting and operating costs, and the absence of an appointed Title IX Coordinator and Senior Women's Administrator. Though these facts created an inference of retaliation, TSU overcame this inference with evidence that they fired Cummings because of his team's poor win-loss record and low academic success indicators. None of Cummings's evidence rebutted TSU's claims that its reasons for firing him were legitimate. The only evidence that his advocacy and termination were related was the fact that they happened close in time, but this circumstantial evidence, without more, was not enough to survive summary judgment.

Though this case was dismissed, another former TSU women's basketball coach's retaliation cases remains pending. You may recall Surina Dixon, who was hired to be Cummings's successor. She held the job for just a couple of months before she was terminated, allegedly for questioning TSU's decision to pay her half as much and on a shorter contract term than the newly-hired men's basketball coach. Dixon's case remains pending and dispositive motions have been filed. I expect we'll be hearing more about that TSU case in the near future.

Cummings v. Texas Southern University, 2011 WL 1750697(S.D.Tex. May 06, 2011).