The University of Pittsburgh is the latest institution to face a lawsuit over racial discrimination and termination without just cause.
Former Pitt wrestling coach Jason Peters filed a federal lawsuit against his former employer, claiming the school violated his employment contract by firing him without cause. Peters, who is black, also alleges racial bias in his lawsuit.
Peters was fired from his job in January, after an incident at a tournament in Evanston, Ill. According to The Pitt News, Evanston police responded to a call at a hotel from a 22-year-old man who said one of his two 19-year-old friends had stolen $100 from him. Law enforcement said the suspected were three women whom the men had met on backpage.com, a known prostitution website that authorities seized in April as part of a sex trafficking investigation.
While law enforcement never released the identities of the three men, Pitt suspended Peters and three wrestlers.
Pitt released the following statement addressing the incident:
On the morning of January 13, the Pitt Athletic Department became aware of an incident that took place during the wrestling team’s trip to Illinois for a competition on December 29-30. An investigation was immediately launched and, while the details of that process will remain private, the university was compelled by its findings to make a change in the program’s leadership.
Peters’ attorneys argue that the coach did nothing wrong, as he stayed in a room a floor above where the team was staying. Peters says the matter was not brought up for a week after the incident, until a meeting took place where senior associate athletic director Marcus Bowman allegedly said that “Peters had not ‘properly responded’ in Evanston.” Two days later, Peters was terminated for allegedly having withheld information about the Evanston incident.
Peters is also alleging racial discrimination in the complaint, charging that, “Caucasian coaches at Pitt have not faced termination in similar situations … Caucasian coaches at Pitt involved in similar situations [redacted] have continued to be paid by the University.”