A Polk County jury of five women and three men did not let its gender imbalance influence its decision to award $1.43 million to Jane Meyer, a former University of Iowa athletics administrator who sued the UI for gender and sexual orientation discrimination, the forewoman said.
“It had nothing to do with more women” being on the jury, said Karianne Lundgren, of Altoona. “It was a unanimous verdict.”
Meyer, 57, who worked in the UI Athletics Department from 2001 to 2014, claimed gender and sexual orientation discrimination based on Athletics Director Gary Barta’s decision in December 2014 to transfer her from athletics. The shift happened a day after Meyer lodged a complaint about the firing of her partner, Tracey Griesbaum, as head field hockey coach.
The UI then fired Meyer last September.
Lundgren, chosen by fellow jurors to be the forewoman, talked Friday with The Gazette — one day after the verdict in the three-week trial.
She said the jury spent 10 hours over two days methodically going through each of Meyer’s five claims: gender discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, retaliation, equal pay violation and whistleblower violation.
“Two to three of the counts we didn’t need to spend a lot of time,” she said. “It seemed ‘for sure this happened,’”
Ultimately, the jury was unanimous Meyer had proved her case by a “preponderance of the evidence” on all five counts. The group awarded Meyer $1.43 million for lost wages and emotional damages.
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The verdict form filed publicly Friday showed the “yesses” written on each of the five counts, as well as the question of whether the UI’s decision to pay Meyer less than a peer with comparable duties was willful.
That finding opens the door to Meyer’s legal team to request the court award Meyer triple the $374,000 jury award for lost pay, her attorney, Jill Zwagerman said. Meyer’s team expects to file post-trial motions seeking an additional $2 million, including the additional lost pay.
Lundgren said she had not heard of Meyer before the trial and found it interesting to hear testimony from dozens of UI officials, including Football Coach Kirk Ferentz, Wrestling Coach Tom Brands and Women’s Basketball Coach Lisa Bluder. Meyer’s testimony was important to Lundgren’s decision, she said.
But Lundgren wasn’t moved by testimony from coaches who butted heads with Meyer. Highlighted examples at trial include Meyer failing to deliver a satisfactory architect’s drawing of a proposed football facility to Ferentz and not giving Brands enough input into renovations of UI wrestling facilities.
“I mean, really?” Lundgren asked. “How are you defending your case with such petty things?”
The UI also did not have adequate documentation to prove Meyer had been insubordinate and negligent of her job duties, which the UI claimed were the reasons she was transferred from athletics, Lundgren said.
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