A district court judge will decide by Sept. 9 whether the University of Iowa can terminate the employment of a onetime athletic department official who is suing the school.
The university notified Jane Meyer on June 9 that her employment would end in three months. Her attorney, Jill Zwagerman, sought an injunction, arguing that Meyer’s pending dismissal was in retaliation for legitimate complaints she had lodged with the Iowa Board of Regents about discrimination and other wrongdoing at the university. Assistant attorney general George Carroll asked that the motion be dismissed on the grounds that Meyer was told when she was reassigned in 2014 that her new position would end this summer.
Judge Michael Huppert, who heard the arguments Friday at the Polk County Courthouse, promised a ruling within two weeks.
Meyer has worked at UI since 2001, when she was hired as the top-ranking female athletics administrator by former athletic director Bob Bowlsby. She remained in that role until 2014, when she was reassigned by current AD Gary Barta because Meyer’s partner, Tracey Griesbaum, was suing the university for wrongful termination and discrimination. Barta fired Griesbaum, the school’s longtime field hockey coach, in August 2014.
Meyer was transferred – “without her knowledge or input,” Zwagerman said – first to the university’s facilities management department and in April 2015 to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She retained her $173,000 annual salary and benefits.
Meyer sent a memo to Barta detailing what she viewed as discriminatory practices against female and gay coaches and athletes in his department in December 2014, the day before her initial reassignment. Getting no satisfactory response, she reiterated the claims in letters to the Board of Regents in February and March 2015. Those claims also prompted no investigation, Zwagerman said, and Meyer filed her own discrimination lawsuit against the university in November.
Zwagerman asked that Meyer be allowed to keep her university job until her lawsuit is heard. She said Meyer would prefer to rejoin the athletic department but is open to being reassigned again. Meyer’s trial is scheduled for April 17.
Carroll countered that Meyer is an at-will employee who has been given the proper notice that her job is going to end and that the occurrence of this 15 months after her latest letter to the Board of Regents is evidence that it is not in retaliation for those complaints. He said keeping her employed in the meantime would just generate a “windfall” for her.
“We told her it was going to come to an end and it did come to an end,” Carroll said. “What if she stays on our payroll and she loses (her court case)? Does the state get its money back?
“What salary? What benefits? What position?”
Zwagerman claimed that Meyer should be shielded from losing her job by the state’s “whistleblower” statute. She said that what the university and Board of Regents is doing is transparent – ignoring her complaints for so long that they can dismiss her while claiming that too much time had elapsed between Meyer’s letters to the board and her termination to prove a cause-and-effect.
Zwagerman also dismissed Carroll’s “windfall” assertion, saying the university would be getting a valuable employee who has always received exemplary job reviews.
“She will be an asset to that university if they choose to utilize her appropriately,” Zwagerman said.