DULUTH, Minn.-Three former University of Minnesota Duluth women's athletics coaches have taken their legal battle to state court.
Former women's hockey coach Shannon Miller, former softball coach and women's hockey director of operations Jen Banford and former women's basketball coach Annette Wiles brought the action Thursday in State District Court in Hennepin County.
The 40-page complaint alleges five counts: discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, creation of a hostile work environment and reprisal under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, as well as violations of the Equal Pay for Equal Work Law and the Minnesota Whistleblower Act.
The suit was filed the same afternoon that a federal jury in Duluth awarded Miller $3.74 million in damages after finding UMD liable for sex discrimination and Title IX retaliation at the end of an eight-day trial.
U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz last month dismissed the state-level claims from the federal case. While he said the sexual orientation allegations were the "strongest" element of the plaintiffs' case, Schiltz said he lacked jurisdiction to hear the issue in federal court.
Dan Siegel, an attorney for the plaintiffs, addressed the state claims in a news conference moments after the verdict was read in federal court.
"Perhaps UMD didn't believe or agree that we had any good claims, but now that we've won on our 'weak' claim - and won almost $4 million - UMD should do the right thing and settle with Jen and Annette and Shannon," he said.
The university has vowed to continuing fighting the claims of discrimination, with senior associate general counsel Tim Pramas stating earlier this month that the plaintiffs "do not have a legally viable state court option."
"In regards to the state court action, our legal team will be filing a motion to dismiss the complaint," UMD spokeswoman Lynne Williams said Monday.
The state case has been assigned to Judge Joseph Klein of Minneapolis. No timelines or hearing dates have been set.
At the federal level, Schiltz said he intends to schedule a meeting with attorneys to discuss how the case will proceed. It is anticipated that UMD will file motions seeking to overturn or reduce the damages, and Miller could also seek additional damages.
The jury awarded Miller $744,832 in past lost wages and $3 million for past emotional distress. They did not award any damages for future emotional distress.
The judge must decide whether future lost wages should be added. In an advisory question on the verdict form, jurors said they believed that if Miller had been offered a new contract in December 2014, she would have continued working at UMD today.