DULUTH — Monday's Supreme Court ruling on protections for gay, lesbian and transgender people under the Civil Rights Act has reopened the door to a lawsuit from two former University of Minnesota Duluth coaches.
Softball coach Jen Banford and women's basketball coach Annette Wiles have alleged workplace discrimination based on their sexual orientation, an argument that courts must now recognize, attorney Sharon Van Dyck said.
"It's clear that the big issue in our case has been decided in favor of my clients," she said. "And our case will go forward. It's a great day."
The federal suit was first filed in 2015 alongside former women's hockey coach Shannon Miller, whose case went on to trial without the other coaches. She won the case in 2018 and settled with the university for $4.5 million in December last year.
Banford and Wiles' previously dismissed claims, meanwhile, have been on hold at the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals pending the outcome of the Supreme Court case that was decided Monday. Van Dyck said she plans to file motions to restart the case this week.
"We want to go to trial on it and let a jury decide whether or not these women were discriminated against because they are gay," she said. "We didn't get that opportunity, now we have to pick back up where we left off."
Banford, like Miller, was told in December 2014 her contract would not be renewed. UMD later offered a contract to Banford that she rejected, according to court records. Wiles resigned in 2015 due to a "hostile work environment," filings say.
The case was also brought in state court, but those proceedings ended in the university's favor after the Minnesota Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in December.
Miller's discrimination case went forward based on her gender, not sexual orientation, and as part of her settlement she is not taking part in Banford's and Wiles' suit.