ILNews

7th Circuit rules on IUPUI discrimination case

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated one grant of summary judgment and affirmed another in favor of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in a discrimination suit. A former women's tennis coach had brought the age and gender discrimination suit against the university after she was fired.

In Debbie A. Peirick v. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Athletic Department, et al., No. 06-1538, the federal appellate court heard the appeal of Peirick, who was the women's tennis coach at IUPUI for 13 years. Peirick was fired after her best season as head coach without any warning. She sued IUPUI, its athletic department, and Indiana University's Board of Trustees, claiming her termination was motivated by gender and age. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on both claims.

Peirick always met IUPUI expectations for coaches during her tenure as head coach, including excellent academic performance by student athletes, community service, budgeting, professional conduct, and athletic competition. She never had violated an NCAA rule. It was only in the months before her termination in 2003 did IUPUI's Athletic Director Michael Moore, and Assistant Athletic Director Denise O'Grady decide Peirick should be fired.

Between April and June 2003, Moore and O'Grady heard from students who complained about Peirick's driving while at a competition, use of foul language, and her handling of a scheduling conflict with the Indianapolis Tennis Center, where the team practiced and competed. Peirick wanted to reserve the Tennis Center to host the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament, but it was already booked. When students learned of it, Peirick told the students it was the athletic administration's fault because they didn't schedule the space in time.

Moore and O'Grady claim Peirick's lie to her students about the Tennis Center was the last straw requiring her termination, but Peirick was never given any kind of warning or reprimand because of her behavior. After her firing, IUPUI hired the 23-year-old sister of the men's tennis coach to coach the women's team.

The 7th Circuit vacated the grant of summary judgment in favor of IUPUI because questions of material fact existed on Peirick's gender discrimination claim. Peirick named two other male coaches at IUPUI that were similarly situated with her as far as questionable conduct. These two male coaches engaged in serious violations of Indiana University's Statement of Principles on the Conduct of Participants in Student Athletic Programs, like Peirick, but they were given progressive discipline instead of being fired without warning and were treated more favorably than Peirick. The school's delay in explaining why Peirick was fired and its unusual conduct create a question of fact concerning the legitimacy of its explanations for Peirick's termination, wrote Judge Anne Claire Williams.

The federal appellate court did uphold the summary judgment in favor of IUPUI on Peirick's age discrimination claim because the defendants are immune from suit. The 11th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution shields them from suit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 621 to 634. The athletics department is a division of the university and cannot be sued. IUPUI and Indiana University's Board of Governors are agencies of the state and also cannot be sued. The 11th Amendment usually bars actions in federal court against a state, state agency, or state officials acting in their official capacities, so the District Court was correct in granting summary judgment in favor of IUPUI, wrote Judge Williams.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

ADVERTISEMENT