Thursday, December 06, 2007

Fresno Jury Awards Title IX Plaintiff $19 Million

After hearing eight weeks of testimony, a jury in Fresno needed just four hours to find that Fresno State discriminated against Stacy Johnson-Klein on the basis of sex when it terminated her from her position as head women's basketball coach in 2005. The jury also decided that $19.1 million dollars would fairly compensate Johnson-Klein for her damages, which included back pay and future lost wages as well as past and future pain and suffering.

This morning, attorneys for each side made closing statements that attempted to tie together hundreds of hours of testimony into a cohesive story. The jury believed Johnson-Klein's attorney's version of the story, that athletic department officials -- headed by a sexist and sexually reckless AD -- decided to fire her because she threatened to invoke Title IX to resolve disparities between men's and women's basketball program. They then opportunistically seized on complaints from players who resented her disciplinary style about her her behavior -- including that she had taken prescription painkillers from a player -- as a pretext for her termination. That the department did not punish drug use on the men's team lent further support to the pretext theory.

The jury thus rejected Fresno State's version of the story, in which the athletic department responded responsibly to valid concerns about the coach's behavior, which included manipulating per diem expenses to her own benefit and organizing a bonus payout scheme to benefit of the program secretary as well as erratic and verbally abusive behavior in addition to the drug use.

More updates on the verdict as developments warrant.
For prior posts use the Fresno link below.

UPDATE 12/7: The Bee reports this morning that Johnson-Klein offered to settle before trial for $950,000, but the University wouldn't go higher than $550,000.

It also reports the breakdown of the damages award:

Past economic losses: $634,254

Future economic losses:$4,440,419

Past noneconomic suffering: $3 million

Future noneconomic suffering: $11 million

Total: $19,074,673