DES MOINES — After 11 days of testimony, jurors in the employment discrimination trial of a former associate athletic director against the University of Iowa heard five quick witnesses Tuesday before the defense rested.
Closing arguments will start Wednesday, and then the jury of five women and three men will decide whether Jane Meyer is entitled to financial damages based on her claims of gender and sexual orientation discrimination, retaliation and unfair pay.
An economist called Tuesday by the UI said Meyer will have lost out on about $500,000 in wages between Sept. 9, when she was fired by the UI, and June 30, 2018. Meyer was transferred from the Athletic Department to a UI facilities job Dec. 5, 2014, soon after she complained about the firing of her longtime partner, Tracey Griesbaum, who was the UI’s head field hockey coach.
Meyer’s legal team claims she lost out on nearly $1 million in lost pay and suffered emotional damages.
The UI is trying to prove Meyer could have gotten other jobs.
“Her ability to get a position is still based on her skills, her education background,” Eric Frye, vice president of Spectrum Economics in Kansas, testified for the UI. “She’s been in the workforce for 30-some years now, so she has a lot of experience and that has value.”
Meyer testified in rebuttal she has applied for about 25 jobs — mostly in university athletics — since 2010. She was a finalist for several jobs and had many interviews before UI Athletics Director Gary Barta transferred her out of his department, but opportunities have dried up since, she testified earlier in the trial.
Meyer said Tuesday she has moved to Des Moines and applied for jobs at Lowe’s Home Improvement and Home Depot. “I don’t know what my future is,” she said.
Liz Hollingworth, an education professor and chairwoman of the UI Presidential Committee on Athletics, testified Tuesday about Meyer breaking the confidentiality of a coach who had spoken to the group’s equity subcommittee.
“Our subcommittee had interviewed a coach, who made some comments about the impossibility of there being gay student-athletes on the team,” Hollingworth said. “Instead of being able to form a recommendation and take it to Gary Barta, someone from the committee took it directly to Gary Barta and went to that coach, breaking the confidentiality.”
Meyer, on another occasion, identified several female coaches in same-sex relationships and asked Hollingworth to talk with them about equity issues in the department, Hollingworth testified.
Meyer denied this allegation in rebuttal, saying she merely recommended the subcommittee expand its list of coaches to interview.
Hollingworth asked Barta to remove Meyer from the subcommittee.
“I said, ‘I don’t want Jane Meyer at equity subcommittee meetings,’” Hollingworth said. “I believe she has an agenda and she’s trying to hijack our meetings.”
Judge Michael Huppert decided, against an objection from the UI’s attorney, George Carroll, that he will allow jurors to take notes during closing arguments because of the case’s complexity.
If the jury deliberates fewer than six hours, it must be an unanimous decision. After six hours, a verdict may be reached with seven jurors in agreement.
The trial on Meyer’s claims is something of a test case for a similar lawsuit Griesbaum has filed against the UI. She claims the UI applies a double standard in its expectations of male and female coaches as well to student-athletes. Griesbaum’s trial is scheduled for June in Polk County.
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