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UMD hit with discrimination lawsuit filed by three former coaches

Athletics at the University of Minnesota are once again dominating the headlines. However, just like before, the headlines aren't necessarily about the football, hockey or basketball programs, but rather about alleged misconduct on the part of high-ranking officials.

Indeed, this time the allegations don't involve sexual harassment and the setting isn't the University's Twin City campus, but rather the allegations involve discrimination and violations of Title IX principles, and the setting is the University of Minnesota Duluth.

What exactly is this lawsuit about?

The former coaches of the UMD Bulldogs women's hockey, basketball and softball teams, all of whom are openly gay, filed a joint lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Monday alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender, age and national origin.

In addition, the three coaches, two of whom saw their contracts go unrenewed and one of whom resigned, also accuse UMD of retaliation, creation of a hostile work environment, violation of equal pay laws and violations of Title IX principles.

What is Title IX?

Simply put, Title IX is a federal law that bars federally funded institutions, like universities, from engaging in any sort of discriminatory conduct based on gender.

What allegations are made in the complaint?

While a complete analysis of all of the allegations is clearly beyond the scope of a single blog post, some of the more noteworthy include UMD officials failing to take the necessary remedial measures when all three coaches were victimized by behavior that was either disrespectful or hostile.

It also alleges that UMD's athletic director frequently made disparaging comments about Canada despite knowing this was the native country of two of the coaches.

What are the three coaches asking for in terms of damages?

While the lawsuit does not request a specific amount of damages, it does seek a monetary award to cover both back and future pay, as well as emotional distress. It should be noted that similar lawsuits filed against Fresno State University back in 2007 saw two fired women coaches awarded $19.1 million and $5.85, respectively.

What is UMD's position?  

While UMD officials have thus far had little to say concerning the federal lawsuit, they have expressed their belief that no wrongs had been perpetrated, and that the school remains committed to fostering a policy of inclusion and diversity.

Stay tuned for updates on this important case.

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