Monday, December 7, 2009

Lesbian Basketball Coach Wins Case

In October I gave an update on three pending lawsuits in women’s sports about discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation. One of these cases has now been decided and the lesbian coach who filed the lawsuit won.

Lorri Sulpizio, the women’s basketball coach at Mesa Community College in San Diego charged that she was fired in retaliation for her complaints about gender inequities in the athletic program at Mesa. She also alleged that she was fired because she is a lesbian. Lorri and her partner, Cathy Bass, who was the Head of Basketball Operations, were featured in a news story about lesbian families not long before they were both fired.

The jury awarded Sulpizio $28,000 which is the equivalent of her salary for one year finding that she was retaliated against for her advocacy of gender equity. The charges of discrimination based on sexual orientation were not upheld. The Title IX Blog has a good discussion of these results and has some thoughts on why this part of the lawsuit was not as strong.

Though the $28,000 seems like a small judgment compared to some of the recent awards at Fresno or Gulf Coast, this decision is another victory in a string of cases that clearly send the message that schools that retaliate against coaches who speak up about sex discrimination in sport will pay the price in bad publicity and financial payouts.

Congratulations to NCLR, who represented Sulpizio, for another great victory.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The amount of the award is apparently small, but you have to keep in mind that Sulpizio found a new job almost immediately, and that she was a part time coach when she was fired. What is significant is the finding of retaliation, and that an attorney's fees award will almost certainly follow in a short time and total into six figures.