Friday, June 08, 2007

Former Coach's Discrimination Trial Begins in Fresno

Yesterday attorneys for ex-volleyball coach Lindy Vivas made opening statements in the trial against her former employer, California State University at Fresno. Vivas alleges that the university refused to renew her contract in 2004 because of her "outspoken advocacy for gender equity in university sports and for her 'perceived sexual orientation.'" The university defends that its decision was performance-related, arguing that Vivas had "failed to take the Bulldogs to the next level by winning an NCAA Tournament." Vivas's 11 year record was 263-167, and in the last three years her team was 59-27.

Vivas's is only one of three lawsuits by former female athletic department employees filed against Fresno State in recent years. Diane Milutinovich sued after she was transferred out of the department, and ultimately fired altogether, for also insisting that the school implement changes consistent with the OCR Title IX compliance order. Her lawsuit is scheduled for trial in September. In addition, former basketball coach Stacy Johnson-Klein has also sued the school, alleging that she was fired for complaining about sexual harassment. Like Vivas's, Johnson-Klein's lawsuit also alleges that female coaches were scrutinized for indicia of homosexuality., which has compiled a helpful timeline of these events, summarizes it this way:
According to The Bee, Johnson-Klein says she was told that "lesbian coaches were not to be hired at California State University-Fresno." On numerous occasions, she saw or heard her supervisors and athletic department staffers refer to lesbians as "the other team," adding that "you need to be on the home team and not the other team." According to the article, Johnson-Klein said she was told to choose sides and "was instructed not to harbor or foster any type of relationship with any women athletes who were considered lesbians or complained of Title IX violations," the lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit also states that supervisors repeatedly referred to certain women coaches as "lesbians, dykes and atheists," according to the newspaper.
Outsports also notes, "With the firing of both Vivas and Johnson-Klein, Fresno State is left with only three female head coaches in an athletic department that competes in 16 Division I sports. Six of the nine women's sports on campus have male head coaches."

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