The University of Iowa wants to postpone the trial of a former field hockey coach who’s suing the UI for employment discrimination.
Tracey Griesbaum, who was fired by the UI in 2014 after several student-athletes complained of verbal abuse, is suing her former employer for gender and sexual orientation discrimination.
Assistant Attorney General George Carroll, representing the UI, filed a motion Tuesday requesting a delay in the trial scheduled to start June 5 in Polk County and last 10 days.
“Defendants will not be able to present an adequate defense in the time originally scheduled by consent of counsel,” he wrote. “The number of witnesses and length of testimony will require more than 10 days of trial. The Meyer v University of Iowa litigation demonstrates this reality.”
Carroll is referring to the nearly three-week trial of Griesbaum’s partner, Jane Meyer, who worked 14 years in the UI athletics department before she was transferred out in December 2015.
A jury last week awarded Meyer $1.4 million, finding the UI discriminated against her based on gender and sexual orientation, as well as retaliated against her, paid a similarly-positioned male employee more money and violated Meyer’s whistleblower rights.
Meyer’s trial included 12 days of testimony and dozens of witnesses, including UI Athletics Director Gary Barta, Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz, Head Wrestling Coach Tom Brands and Head Women’s Basketball Coach Lisa Bluder.
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The UI does not agree to split up the Griesbaum trial, saying a break in testimony would likely occur as the defense is calling witnesses and thereby hurt the UI’s case, the motion states.
“Defendants have the same right to present evidence as Plaintiff and the fact that Plaintiff may be done in a certain time frame should not be the sole consideration,” Carroll wrote.
Griesbaum’s lawsuit, filed in March 2016, claims gender bias in the Athletics Department causes a double standard by which female coaches must monitor their language and worry about keeping students and parents happy, while male coaches are allowed to “yell, curse, threaten, throw things, be ejected from games and push student athletes to the edge of their abilities even if it sometimes results in injury.”
Mistreatment reported by some student athletes includes Griesbaum allegedly calling a student-athlete stupid; telling a student-athlete, “If I were you, I would kill myself;’ having a student-athlete practice alone; and allowing “call out” meetings that hurt team morale, according to a summary of a UI investigation that preceded Griesbaum’s firing.
Investigators, though, found insufficient evidence to show a violation of university policy.
Griesbaum denied the accusations and other student-athletes could not substantiate them to investigators. Hundreds of former players and coaches have written letters to the UI and posted messages online in support of Griesbaum, describing her coaching style as tough but fair.
The lawsuit claims Barta undermined or forced out other female coaches, including those who were gay.