DES MOINES, Iowa â€” A jury on Thursday awarded more than $1.4 million to a former University of Iowa athletic administrator, ruling that the university had discriminated against her because of her gender and sexual orientation.
Jane Meyer alleged she suffered workplace discrimination as a gay woman in a relationship with the school’s longtime and highly successful field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum, that the school retaliated against her for complaining about Griesbaum’s firing, and that she was paid less than a male counterpart for similar work. Judge Michael D. Huppert said the eight-person jury found in favour of Meyer on all five counts.
The trial lasted nearly three weeks and featured testimony from Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz and wrestling coach Tom Brands.
The jury began deliberating Wednesday. It delivered its sealed verdict on Thursday.
Meyer, who was Iowa’s top assistant and the top ranking female athletics administrator for a decade, filed the lawsuit after being transferred to another department soon after Griesbaum was fired. Meyer’s job was eliminated in 2016.
Meyer’s lawyers closed their case by bringing up a memo from Meyer to athletic director Gary Barta that outlined many of the concerns of gender and sexual discrimination that ultimately led her to sue her former employer. A day after Meyer gave the memo to Barta, she was reassigned outside of athletics.
Meyer’s lawyers also brought up an email from the university acknowledging that it was moving Meyer from the department because Griesbaum had threatened to sue the school and that she had made their relationship public through The Associated Press.
Coaches Ferentz, Brands and Heller criticized Meyer as not being responsive to their requests, especially involving plans to improve athletics facilities. Barta testified some coaches were no longer willing to work with Meyer, prompting him to decide to hire Gene Taylor as his deputy.
Iowa Assistant Attorney General George Carroll told jurors that Meyer ultimately was moved out of the department because she had behaved “intolerably” in the months following Griesbaum’s firing. Carroll also argued that Iowa had no history of discrimination against gay coaches.
Jurors awarded Meyer $374,000 in lost earnings, $444,000 in past emotional distress, and $612,000 in future emotional distress, according to Huppert.
Iowa did not immediately respond to an email request from The Associated Press seeking comment on the verdict.
Meyer was scheduled to hold a news conference later Thursday.
Associated Press Writer Ryan J. Foley contributed to this report.
Luke Meredith, The Associated Press