Jane Meyer has first day of testimony in trial alleging gender and sexual orientation discrimination by UI
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DES MOINES — After spending about 45 minutes describing her career timeline, Jane Meyer cited something likely to be a focal point through the rest of the trial for the lawsuit she has brought against the University of Iowa.
“Some coaches being fired were gay,” Meyer said.
One was field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum, who was terminated as the UI’s head field hockey coach in August 2014. She is the longtime partner of Meyer, who was removed as the school’s senior associate athletics director in December of that year and transferred to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Her job was eliminated last September.
Meyer is suing the university for gender and sexual orientation discrimination, and for claims of retaliation after she complained about Griesbaum’s firing.
Meyer’s suit alleges athletics director Gary Barta’s department “has undermined, forced out or terminated” one administrator (Meyer) and six highly qualified female coaches, none of whom were under Meyer’s direct supervision.
“There were coaching changes with some of our women’s teams being made,” Meyer said. “I sort of tucked them away. I wasn’t their sports’ supervisor.
“I started putting pieces together as decisions were made.”
Meyer introduced herself to the 10-person jury Wednesday in the trial’s third day, describing herself as an athletics department administrator who had piled up a stack of accomplishments and commendations before having the rug pulled out from beneath her.
Often looking directly at the jury and always speaking with a clear voice, Meyer answered her attorney’s questions at the Polk County Courthouse.
She was the UI’s senior associate athletic director from her hire in 2001 until December 2014 when she was transferred out of athletics. From her hire until Gene Taylor was brought in as deputy athletics director in June 2014, Meyer was second-in-command in the athletics department.
“Outstanding/superior” and “superior/outstanding” is how former UI senior associate athletics director Meyer recounted how she was evaluated in job performance reviews in the first several years after Barta took over as athletics director in August 2006.
Meyer noted Barta said she “has displayed first-class professionalism” in his first performance review of her in 2007.
Bob Bowlsby, who preceded Barta as athletics director and hired Meyer, had written in her 2005-06 job review that she “was ready to move to a director’s chair.”
She detailed many of her duties in the department over the years, including overseeing what she said was “$350 million worth of athletics facilities (projects), some with budgets as large as $100 million (for a Kinnick Stadium renovation).”
Meyer said she asked Barta for pay raises in 2008 and 2012.
“I provided him with data of what other senior associates were paid within the Big Ten Conference and in Power Five conferences,” she said. “I got no response in 2008.
In 2013, she said employees she advocated for raises got them, but she did not, though “in 2012 I was asked to take on additional duties.”
Meyer’s salary was $173,154 in June 2014 when Barta hired Gene Taylor, then the athletics director at North Dakota State, to fill the newly created post of deputy athletics director at an annual salary of $245,000.
Taylor immediately assumed the overseeing of the football and men’s and women’s basketball programs, roles Meyer testified were vital in establishing yourself as a candidate to be a Division I athletics director, her stated goal during her entire career at Iowa.
“In August of 2013,” Meyer said, “Mr. Barta said he decided to reorganize the department and create the deputy position that would be the new second-in-command position.
“I told him I wanted to be considered. He said he would not consider me for the position,” adding Barta told her he wanted “someone who could better represent him.”
Meyer’s testimony will resume Thursday at 9 a.m. Barta is among many current and former UI athletics department members on the witness list. He may testify as soon as this Thursday afternoon.
Laura Burton, a University of Connecticut professor hired by Meyer’s attorneys to detail stereotypes about gender in athletics administration, also testified Wednesday.
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