UI settles male track coach discrimination lawsuit
The University of Iowa confirmed Wednesday it will pay nearly $200,000 to a male track coach and his attorneys to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit alleging the man was passed over for a job because administrators wanted a woman.
Mike Scott, who was a volunteer assistant in the university's track program, applied for the position of assistant track coach in 2012. He believed he was qualified to replace the departing assistant coach — a woman — since he was already working in her areas, including pole vault and vertical jumps. Scott alleges he was warned that administrators wanted a woman and that then-Director of Track and Field Larry Wieczorek even joked that a sex change might improve his prospects.
Scott was a finalist, but another male was recommended for the job and rejected by the administration. A second search failed when a preferred female candidate accepted another job. The program then gave Scott an 11-month contract as an assistant, with the understanding that another search would occur after the 2012-2013 season.
Scott alleges administrators rewrote the job description, which disqualified him and duplicated other coaches' specialties. Scott didn't apply and the third search failed, so the university again rewrote the description so that it was more general. Scott applied but didn't get an interview for the fourth search. The job went to Molly Jones, who had been a volunteer assistant at Florida State for two years.
Scott's attorneys uncovered a June 4, 2013, email in which track and field coach Layne Anderson tells assistants that he had rewritten the position's job description in a way to attract more female candidates. "It is once again largely driven by the mandate from the administration to hire a female ..." Anderson wrote in an email.
Any gender-based mandate would violate university policy and Iowa law, which bar discrimination in employment, and the university has denied discriminating against Scott. School spokeswoman Jeneane Beck said the university interviewed men and women for the job and the athletic department hired the person it deemed most qualified.
"The university does not agree with Mr. Scott that he was discriminated against based upon his gender, but resolution of disputes by mutual agreement, after mediation, is beneficial for all involved and brings the matter to a close," she said in a statement.
The agreement, which pays Scott's attorneys nearly $81,000 and Scott $20,000 for past wages and $97,222 to settle all claims, says there's no admission of discrimination by the university.
Scott's attorneys said his goal was to expose sex discrimination in college athletics — against both sexes.
"It is rare for a supervisor to admit to discrimination in an email to subordinates, but that is exactly what happened in this case," Nate Borland and Brooke Timmer said in a statement. "The state's decision to settle was wise considering its own employees wrote about the administration's 'mandate' that a woman be hired for the position."
Scott, who is now an assistant coach at Missouri State, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.