Iowa Discrimination Suit: Ex-Associate AD Wins $1.43M

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Former senior associate athletic director Jane Meyer has been awarded $1.43 million in her discrimination suit against the University of Iowa.

The jury granted Meyer $444,000 in damages for past emotional distress and $612,000 for future emotional distress after ruling in her favor on all five claims brought before the court: gender and sexual orientation discrimination, retaliation and whistleblower violations and unequal pay.

Iowa employment lawyer Brooke Timmer told The Des Moines Register that such substantial sums are rarely awarded by Iowa jurors. "It shows that the jury felt that there was a wrong that was committed and there was significant money that needed to be paid that rectified that," she said.

Meyer was hired by UI in 2001, and worked in the athletic department for more than a decade before being reassigned to the college of liberal arts and sciences and then eventually terminated last September. According to Meyer, these actions on the part of the university effectively ended her career.

Prior to her reassignment in 2014, UI athletic director Gary Barta hired a male employee to fill a newly created “deputy” position, which took over many of Meyer’s duties at a salary $70,000 higher than her own.

Meyer has accused Barta of purposefully forcing her out of the department as a gay woman and as someone with a history of speaking out against gender inequality in UI’s athletic department.

Meyer’s legal counsel told The Des Moines Register that the subtle biases faced by Meyer are more challenging to win than other cases of open discrimination. "When you have subtle biases like this, it puts all women at risk," said attorney Tom Newkirk. "It places all student-athletes at risk, both men and women.”

Meyer’s attorneys are further seeking damages in the amount of $2 million from the county judge to cover Meyer’s legal fees and for three times her salary in back pay. They will also petition the judge to order an investigation into unequal treatment of men and women in that UI athletic department, as well as Meyer’s reinstatement.

In a press conference following the verdict, Meyer told reporters that the results are ultimately for the university’s good. "This is a very pro-Iowa case," she said. “This is about trying to make that university better. It's a matter of standing up to say, 'This is bigger, and we need the university to be better.'" 

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