IOWA CITY — A former University of Iowa associate athletics director demoted in 2014 after complaining about the firing of a field hockey coach, also her longtime partner, is suing the UI, Iowa Board of Regents and the state alleging gender and sexual orientation discrimination.
Jane Meyer, who worked in the UI Athletics Department from 2001 until December, claims in the suit filed Wednesday in Polk County District Court the UI improperly paid her $70,000 less than a male counterpart and stripped Meyer of her duties when she complained about the firing of Tracey Griesbaum in August 2014.
Barta fired Griesbaum after an internal investigation reported several field hockey players complained Griesbaum was verbally abusive and pressured them to compete while injured. Other student-athletes and alumna disputed these statements and supported the ousted coach.
“Based upon the actions that Jane Meyer witnessed against herself, female coaches and other females, Jane Meyer filed a written complaint with Gary Barta on December 4, 2014,” the lawsuit states about the UI Athletics director. “On December 5, 2015, Gary Barta put Jane Meyer on administrative leave and removed her from the department of athletics.”
The UI announced at the time Meyer was being reassigned to the UI facilities department because of a potential wrongful-termination lawsuit by Griesbaum. The fired coach has, so far, not sued the UI.
Another issue raised in Meyer’s lawsuit is Barta’s creation in 2014 of a deputy director of athletics position. Meyer had served as the top administrator for women’s sports and had overseen all Athletics facilities projects and operations, but Barta told her she would not be considered for the new post, the lawsuit states.
Instead, Barta hired Gene Taylor at a salary of $245,000 a year -- $75,600 more than the maximum pay outlined for his job classification. Meyer’s salary at that time was $173,154.
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Barta assigned Taylor basketball and football, the two most prestigious sports, Meyer said in the suit.
“Over the past several years, Jane has observed a pattern of discrimination and bias against female coaches and athletes at the University of Iowa that is in striking contrast to the vision laid out for men’s and women’s sports when she was hired,” her attorney, Jill Zwagerman, said in a statement.
“Her challenges to these issues and problems, including wage inequities based on gender, fell on deaf ears. In an attempt to silence her, Gary Barta and the university retaliated by derailing her career and removing her from the job she loves,” Zwagerman said.
The UI denies discriminating against Meyer.
“Leaving Ms. Meyer in her prior position as senior associate director of athletics presented many challenges for the department and the university’s defense of Ms. Griesbaum’s litigation. After consulting with the Assistant Attorney General, the university reassigned Ms. Meyer to a position outside the Athletic Department,” UI Spokeswoman Jeneane Beck wrote.
Meyer, now a logistical strategist and project manager for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is coordinating the UI’s efforts to move UI Studio Arts program and the School of Music into new buildings, Beck said. Meyer’s salary remains the same.
Meyer’s lawsuit demands she be reinstated to her position in the Athletic Department and for the UI to pay her lost earnings and benefits. She also wants the UI to require Athletics seek outside legal review of all employee disciplinary procedures, demotions and hiring decisions.