Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Discriminatory athletic departments put on notice

Earlier this week Lindy Vivas, former volleyball coach at Fresno State was awarded $5.85 million by a jury that decided her former employer had discriminated against her. The Vivas trial is actually the first of three by former female coaches at Fresno State.
The article linked AP story, also used by ESPN, paints the trial as addressing a single issue: that of retaliation. The suit contended that Vivas was fired despite her successful record because she complained about the lack of gender equity in the department. The other coaches have made like accusations.
And from what I hear from California, the jurors certainly saw Fresno State's actions as retaliation against an individual who was trying to get Title IX enforced. But the article leaves out the claims made by Vivas that she was also released because of her perceived sexual orientation: the powers that be thought she was gay. Appalling stories of Ugly Women Athletes Day and of discourse around our team (heteros) and their team (gays) came out during the trial. The jury certainly saw more than just retaliation for seeking gender equity. The jury verdict form shows that they believed Fresno State fired her, in part, because they thought she was a lesbian.
This story from the Fresno Bee about the university's plans to appeal does cite the discrimination based on perceived sexual orientation claim.
The case will go on because of Fresno State's desire to enter the appeals process, likely over the amount of the award, though that remains to be seen. But it seems that few are questioning the veracity of Vivas's claims of an inhospitable atmosphere and an overall lack of serious attention to these issues once they were made public. Fresno State (actually the CSU system) may not end up having to pay the full amount of the award but I see heads rolling (maybe even the president's) in the not too distant future.

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