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.


Post a comment to this story

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
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues