Former Football Coach Rolovich Files Complaint Against WSU, AD

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Washington State Football

Former Washington State University head football coach Nick Rolovich has filed a complaint against the university, its athletic director and Washington governor Jay Inslee, alleging his rights were violated when his refusal to receive a COVID-19 vaccination led to his termination.

As reported by Seattle CBS affiliate KIRO, Rolovich was fired Dec. 6, 2021, after refusing to comply with the state of Washington's requirement that all state employees be vaccinated. Rolovich cited personal and religious beliefs for his refusal.

Rolovich said the university claimed his refusal gave WSU just cause to terminate him, allowing the school to avoid paying him the approximately three-and-a-half years remaining on his five-year contract. A termination without cause would require WSU to pay 60 percent of the approximately $2,000,000 base salary remaining, according to Rolovich, who said his contract never included a provision to follow state and federal health and safety guidelines.

Rolovich refused to sign a new provision that would require that in July 2021, KIRO reported.

The complaint also said that in the summer of 2020, WSU asked Rolovich if he would be willing to take a 10 percent cut in his wages to help mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on WSU finances. Rolovich said he agreed, but only if WSU did not withhold the same amount from his assistant coaches' salaries. According to Rolovich, WSU withheld 10 percent across the board, despite the previous agreement.

Rolovich said WSU athletic director Patrick Chun told him a request for a religious exemption would be denied, even before Inslee issued the vaccine mandate.

As reported by KIRO, Rolovich said Chun told him on May 27, 2021 that his religious beliefs were making him incapable of leading his players and that Rolovich should get counseling for “mental health issues.” Rolovich said Chun told him he should talk to Chun’s wife, because she had been in a couple of different religions that Chun described as “cults.”

After claiming his religious exemption to the vaccine, Rolovich said he was called to a meeting with Chun on Aug. 19, 2021, where Rolovich was told he had four choices: get the vaccine, don’t get the vaccine and be fired, claim the exemption or resign, KIRO reported.

Rolovich said he told Chun he would not resign, and Chun called Rolovich a “con man” and selfish.

Chun will be inducted into the Asian Hall of Fame on Friday in Seattle.

According to the complaint, Rolovich believed Inslee’s mandate for state employees was because Inslee was mad that one of the highest-profile state employees had refused to get vaccinated, KIRO reported.

Rolovich said Chun told him the Board of Regents wanted him fired, then added Rolovich now had only two options: Get vaccinated or resign.

According to KIRO, Rolovich submitted his application for religious exemption to the Human Resources Services (HRS) at WSU and was tentatively approved, provided the athletic department accommodated Rolovich with mask wearing and social distancing, among other measures.

Rolovich said Chun responded to HRS and stated the athletic department would not agree to the accommodations and that Chun doubted Rolovich’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Rolovich’s exemption request was subsequently denied and Rolovich was fired. He was escorted from the building and Rolovich was not allowed to speak to WSU football players.

Rolovich is asking the court for damages that include lost income, wages, liquidated damages, punitive damages, “double damages,” damages for other losses, damages to offset any federal income tax consequences resulting from awarded damages, and attorney fees.

A statement to KIRO from a spokesperson for WSU said, “Mr. Rolovich’s lawsuit against Washington State University is wholly without merit. Washington State University carried out the Governor’s COVID-19 vaccination proclamation for state employees in a fair and lawful manner, including in its evaluation of employee requests for medical or religious exemptions and accommodations. For multiple reasons, Mr. Rolovich did not qualify, and the university firmly stands by that decision. Washington State University will vigorously defend itself against Mr. Rolovich’s claims.”

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