Ex-coaches' suit: UMD discriminated over gender, sex orientation, age, nationality


A lawsuit filed by the former coaches of three women's sports teams at the University of Minnesota Duluth claims discrimination led to the loss of their jobs.

According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court Monday by the former coaches of the women's hockey, softball, and basketball teams, UMD discriminated based on gender, sexual orientation, national origin, and age.

The complaints involving hockey coach Shannon Miller, softball coach Jen Banford, and basketball coach Annette Wiles were rolled into a single lawsuit.

UMD announced in December that the contracts of Miller and Banford would not be renewed, attributing the moves to financial considerations. Wiles cited a "hostile and discriminatory environment" when she resigned in June.

All three of the former coaches are openly gay, WDIO reports. Miller and Banford are natives of Canada, the station says, while Wiles and Miller are over age 40. Miller contends she regularly experienced hostility toward Canadians from UMD officials, the station says.

Their lawsuit maintains the university retaliated against the women for complaining about how they were treated. It rejects the argument that finances were the cause of Miller's departure, noting that the men's hockey coach was not asked to take a pay cut.

A statement from UMD Chancellor Lendley Black says in part: "We continue to refute the allegations and claims of discrimination and will aggressively defend ourselves in the lawsuit. I continue to stand behind the athletics department under the leadership of Josh Berlo, and the direction of UMD athletics," Northland's NewsCenter says.

In announcing the lawsuit Monday, Miller said the case was not just about three coaches, adding that "sexism and homophobia are alive and well at the University of Minnesota," the Star Tribune reports.

The lawsuit was filed against the University of Minnesota Board of Regents, which has 21 days to respond, Northland's NewsCenter reports.

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