Former Drake University basketball coach claims she was forced out for being gay
A former assistant women’s basketball coach filed a federal lawsuit claiming Drake University forced her to resign because she’s gay. Courtney Graham says she was pushed out six months after head coach Jennie Baranczyk learned of her sexuality, which violates state anti-discrimination laws. Drake University denies the allegations, claiming a state panel already rejected Graham’s accusations.
Graham alleges that Baranczyk slowly took away her responsibilities as assistant coach after Graham brought her girlfriend (now her wife) to a home game in 2014. She claims Baranczyk told her she “was not acting like herself” and forced her to take time off after meeting her then-girlfriend, then proceeding to allegedly leave Graham out of team meetings and scouting trips. The former assistant coach claims she was asked to resign in May 2015 without reason, which she did three weeks later “under duress.”
“After discovery of plaintiff’s sexual orientation, she was subjected to hostile interactions on the job and the subject of inter-office slander, speculation and gossip related to her sexual orientation,” the lawsuit says. Iowa (where Drake University is located) prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, and Graham’s lawsuit claims the school violated this law. She’s seeking damages for loss of income, emotional distress, discrimination, and damage to her reputation, also claiming Baranczyk and the university gave her negative references when she tried to get coaching jobs at other schools.
In a statement released Wednesday, Drake University said, “Drake University and head women’s basketball coach Jennie Baranczyk have a strong commitment to diversity, tolerance and non-discrimination. Consistent with university policy regarding personnel matters and out of respect to the parties involved, we will not provide further comment.” The university claims Graham made similar claims to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (ICRC), and the commission dismissed the complaint.
However, Graham’s lawsuit claims the ICRC and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gave her right to sue orders. The ICRC told The Frisky it cannot legally comment on discrimination complaints, but did explain that Iowans must file a complaint with the agency before filing a discrimination lawsuit. After 60 days, the complainant can request that the ICRC close its investigation and issue an administrative release allowing them to file a lawsuit in court. So, it’s possible that both Drake University’s and Graham’s claims about the ICRC are technically correct.
Graham was hired by Baranczyk in 2012. In a statement announcing the hire, the head coach said: “I love Courtney’s passion and her overall vision not just in basketball but in life. She is going to be an outstanding mentor to our student-athletes and she comes from a basketball coaching family. Her personality is great and she is going to be embraced by the Drake community as one of its own.”
The former assistant coach alleges that positive relationship shifted when Baranczyk discovered she’s gay, and Graham wants justice.