Monday, October 27, 2014

Former University of Toledo Softball Coach Files Discrimination Suit

Last week, the former softball coach at the University of Toledo filed a Title IX lawsuit against the institution in federal court, alleging that she was the victim of sex discrimination and retaliation and seeking damages and reinstatement to the position from which she alleges she was forced to resign. The coach, Tarrah Beyster alleges that she advocated for gender equity in her athletic department including by challenging: the disparity in multi-year contracts, which were granted to male coaches, and other gender-based pay inequity; the department's failure to assign a long-term grad assistant to the softball team like it did for the baseball team; preferential treatment for the baseball team in allowing it to keep the revenue from renting out its field; the department's failure to provide the dirt for the field or a new backstop to the softball facility, despite providing both to the baseball team; the department's requirement that the softball team to do its own fundraising to bring the outfield fence into compliance with NCAA regulations; and the singling out of softball to share a locker room with other teams, as well as requiring female coaches to share a locker room with referees and officials.  

Beyster alleges that, after raising these concerns, she endured retaliation in the form of a hostile work environment -- a former associate athletic director called her "Coach Bitch" -- as well as being charged with insubordination at a surprise disciplinary hearing in which she was forced to resign.  She further claims that the "insubordination" charge is pretext for retaliation by alleging that other coaches have engaged in more egregious offenses, like having relationships with their students, without being fired.

Retaliation claims by coaches and administrators are increasingly common in college athletics, especially in the wake of a 2006 Supreme Court decision affirming the statute's application to retaliation, and plaintiffs have successfully obtained verdicts or settlements in a number of them. For examples, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.