Appeals Court Dismisses Coaches' Discrimination Suit

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A Minnesota state appeals court dismissed a lawsuit filed by three former coaches at the University of Minnesota Duluth who had alleged they were discriminated against on the basis of their gender and sexual orientation. 

The Minneapolis StarTribune reports that the three coaches — former women’s hockey coach Shannon Miller, former softball coach Jen Banford, and former women’s basketball coach Annette Wiles — filed their lawsuit in district court in March 2018. In December 2014, Miller and Banford were told their contracts would not be renewed, and in June 2015 Wiles said she was forced to resign. 

The three filed a complaint in federal court in September 2015 that alleged discrimination, as well as violations of state law pertaining to whistleblower protection and equal pay. 

Only Miller’s claims were allowed to proceed, and a federal jury awarded her $3.7 million in March 2018. A judge granted her an additional $460,000. The university has appealed that ruling, but this latest action did not affect it.

After failing to advance in federal court, the coaches took their remaining complaints to district court, only to be told by a judge in October 2018 that those complaints were “untimely” and could not be tried. Hennepin County District Judge Daniel Moreno ruled then that the applicable statutes of limitations prevented the complaints from being tried, adding that they could not be tried in both state and federal court under the Constitution. 

This week, the state Court of Appeals agreed with Moreno, and blocked the case from moving forward.

“We believed from the outset that the plaintiffs’ claims in state court lacked merit and we are happy that a unanimous decision from the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s dismissal of all of those claims,” University of Minnesota senior associate general counsel Tim Pramas said in a statement.

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