IOWA CITY, Iowa ― The University of Iowa is planning to lay off a former top athletic administrator who is suing the school for gender discrimination and retaliation, the school confirmed Wednesday.
Iowa has informed former senior associate athletic director Jane Meyer that her position as a project manager will be eliminated Sept. 9, saying it is no longer necessary.
Meyer’s attorney, Jill Zwagerman, went to court Wednesday seeking an injunction to block the termination from taking effect. Zwagerman argued that the layoff was further retaliation for Meyer’s complaints about unequal pay and treatment of women and lesbians in the athletics department and went back on previous promises that she’d remain employed.
The university said it would resist the injunction and denied discrimination and retaliation.
The dispute is the latest in a messy personnel situation that has contributed to two lawsuits and an ongoing federal civil rights investigation of Iowa’s athletics department.
It dates to August 2014, when athletic director Gary Barta abruptly fired longtime successful women’s field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum shortly before the season began. Meyer is Griesbaum’s longtime partner. Griesbaum has denied the university’s allegations that she bullied players and has sued the school, alleging she faced bias as a gay female coach.
After Griesbaum gave notice that she planned to sue, the university reassigned Meyer to a job outside of the athletics department, where she had been the senior woman’s administrator since 2001. Barta said that Meyer could not work in the department while her partner pursued legal action and that Meyer’s leave would continue until Griesbaum’s case was resolved.
The reassignment came one day after Meyer sent Barta a letter alleging that she was “being targeted and discriminated against” because she is a gay woman. Meyer noted that a newly-hired male administrator, deputy athletic director Gene Taylor, was given a much higher salary even though he performed many of the duties Meyer did previously.
The complaint, released for the first time in court documents Wednesday, also recounted several instances when Meyer said she complained about the treatment of women.
“Many of these issues have been ignored, in my view, because they are important to women or threaten the male dominated culture in the athletics department,” she wrote.
The university allowed Meyer to keep her $173,000 annual salary after her move to a job overseeing university construction projects. She was later transferred to a position helping coordinate the complex moves of art and music programs into new buildings that have been built to replace those destroyed in a 2008 flood. She received positive evaluations in those roles, according to the evaluations submitted as court evidence.
With the moves wrapping up at the beginning of the fall semester, the university gave Meyer the three-month notice required under university policy of her pending job elimination, spokeswoman Jeneane Beck said. The notice said that Meyer was eligible to apply for other positions.
But Zwagerman said that Meyer had been assured her reassignment was temporary and that she would remain employed by the university. Now it’s clear, she said, that the school never had any intention of returning her to athletics.
“They merely wanted to create a time gap between Ms. Meyer’s whistleblowing and her termination in order to avoid any further retaliation allegations,” Zwagerman wrote.
Iowa could transfer Meyer to another job or return her to athletics by removing her from any involvement in Griesbaum’s case, she wrote.
A judge is expected to rule on the injunction request in coming weeks.