Meyer Wins Equal Rights Whistleblower Lawsuit Against University of Iowa
Jane Meyer filed an equal rights whistleblower lawsuit against a former University of Iowa administrator alleging workplace discrimination due to her gender and sexual orientation. Meyer specifically claimed she suffered discrimination as a lesbian woman in a relationship with the university’s renowned field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum, and that the school had retaliated against her for complaining after Griesbaum was fired following a long, highly successful tenure. She also stated she was paid less than a male counterpart for similar work. A lawsuit was filed against the University of Iowa by Griesbaum and the trial lasted three weeks. Judge Michael D. Huppert announced on Thursday that an eight person jury would rule in favor of Meyer.
“This is for everyone who has fought for discrimination,” Meyer said after the verdict was returned. “It’s much bigger than Jane Meyer.” Jurors awarded the plaintiff a substantial payout for the equal rights lawsuit — $444,000 for past emotional distress and $612,000 in lost wages and future emotional distress. Among those to testify at trial were wrestling coach Tom Brands and Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz. Jill Zwagerman, Meyer’s attorney, expects the university to appeal the verdict because of the size of the ordered fees, although she says that her client’s award could technically be triple that amount under state law.
Meyer was Iowa’s top assistant and the top ranking female athletics administrator for ten years. She filed the lawsuit after the university transferred her to another department following Griesbaum’s termination, and her position was eliminated in 2016. Meyer had drafted a list of incidents claiming the university had violated her rights, which involved discrimination based on her gender and sexual orientation just prior to being transferred, which was included as evidence in the trial along with an email proving she was reassigned after making her relationship public and threatening to sue. In the trial, Meyer was accused of not properly responding to requests to improve the school’s athletic buildings, which allegedly negatively affected her working relationship with her colleagues, and many no longer wished to work with her. Iowa Assistant Attorney General George Carroll stated that the university never had a history of discrimination based on sexual orientation, and told jurors that Meyer was transferred for acting “intolerably” following Griesbaum’s termination.
Zwagerman, pleased with the verdict, said, “This is a landmark case…Jane is amazing. She stood up and fought for herself and a lot of other women. Jane Meyer is premier in her knowledge of Title IX, and when she complained that women and especially gay women were being treated differently from their male counterparts in the athletic department, the university removed her from athletics and then fired her.” However, the university was not so pleased. Iowa spokesperson Jeneane Beck said that officials are “disappointed by the jury’s decision”. Meyer said prior to the start of trial she believed her career in university athletics was likely finished no matter the outcome, because of the attention the case garnered. But post-verdict, she showed signs she was still hopeful. “I would love for an institution to hire me,” Meyer said. “To stand up and say ‘You know what? She stood up and wants to do the right thing.”