California laws protect individuals from sexual orientation discrimination. In a recent case, a lawsuit has been filed against Pepperdine University and one of its basketball coaches, alleging harassment related to sexual orientation. According to reports, two players filed the suit against the school and the coach after they suffered harassment related to their lesbian relationship. One of the students suffered such severe harassment that she went into a deep depression and suicide attempt. The coach and academic coordinators allegedly became obsessed with the couple’s relationship and claimed that “lesbianism is not tolerated” on the team.
In addition to the violation of privacy rights, the lawsuit also alleges that that school is in violation of the federal Education Amendments Act of 197 which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded programs and activities. The women were pulled aside and repeatedly questioned about their relationship, about their sleeping arrangements, sexual orientation, and sexual preferences. Both women repeatedly asked the coach to stop “prying” into their personal lives. In another discussion with the team the coach warned the players that they were prohibited from dating. The coach even blamed a team loss on a mid-season break-up between the players.
Other players on the team recognized that there was an intensive investigation going on. They were being questioned and asked about the relationship and warned the players to be careful. After months of living in fear and being harassed, one of the players went into a severe depression and attempted suicide. When she decided to return to the team, the coach refused to allow her back on the court without a doctor’s note from a gynecological exam. According to reports, the doctor’s notes provide evidence of good health, but have also prevented women from playing basketball at the university.
Pepperdine University has an affiliation with the Churches of Christ and claims to represent different religious backgrounds and students of many faiths. In their civil complaint, the couple allege that the Christian school admits lesbian students, but states that the students will be expelled for engaging in premarital sex. Pepperdine issued a statement concerning the alleged harassment and said that an immediate investigation found no evidence to support their claims. Individuals and organizations can be held liable in the event of discrimination or harassment.
Both of the players had a long list of accolades and successes prior to their college basketball careers. Their lawsuit seeks compensatory damages for emotional distress as well as punitive damages for severe and aggressive conduct. Though these allegations have taken place in a college environment, not in the workplace, they exemplify the pervasive and damaging nature of sexual orientation discrimination. Our Orange County discrimination attorneys are dedicated to putting an end to employment discrimination. If you have been fired or terminated or suffered from ongoing harassment or discrimination related to sexual orientation, we want to help. We will review the facts of your case, identify any legal violations and help you collect the compensation you are entitled to.
Employment lawsuits can be filed with assistance from the Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Los Angeles, Riverside, and Orange County. Call 714-937-2020.
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