Former women's assistant coach at Drake University Courtney Graham has accused head coach Jennie Baranczyk of forcing her to quit because she's a lesbian, says a lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Des Moines.
Former Drake University Assistant Coach Courtney Graham
The Iowa university has claimed the allegation is a fiction, and pointed to a previous claim from Graham alleging the same misconduct was immediately rejected by a state panel.
The lawsuit claims Baranczyk violated Iowa's anti-discrimination legislation when she allegedly pressured Graham to quit six months after finding out the assistant coach was gay. "Graham's lawsuit also claims that her sexual orientation and mental health became the focus of office gossip that was started by Baranczyk," notes The Des Moines Register.
Graham, a former Mississippi State University basketball player, began coaching at Drake in 2012. The lawsuit claims Baranczyk did not know Graham was a lesbian until November of 2014, when the assistant coach introduced Baranczyk to her then-girlfriend and now-wife Kristal Flowers at a home game. Later that month, Baranczyk allegedly told Graham "she was not acting herself" and forced her to take time off.
Drake University Head Coach Jennie Baranczyk
Per the lawsuit, Graham was sent home multiple times without explanation by Baranczyk and was excluded "from team meetings and scouting trips, and stripped her of job duties until the only remaining tasks she had were similar to those of an intern." Baranczyk is also accused of gossiping about Graham's medication and therapy for her ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which can trigger impulsive behavior and inattentiveness, to other employees.
"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," states the suit.
Graham is said to have officially resigned on June 5, 2015, after receiving supposed text messages and emails from Baranczyk pressuring her to leave the position.
The suit further claims that Graham cannot find similar coaching work due to the university informing prospective employers of "negative information."
Drake has fully rejected the allegations, releasing a statement on Wednesday in response to the suit. The Iowa university highlighted Graham's previous complaint to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, notes The Des Moines Register, which "dismissed the complaint 'at the earliest possible stage' because it found that, after hearing from Graham and from Drake, there was not a 'reasonable possibility that further investigation would reveal discrimination occurred.'"
Drake University nor Baranczyk, the only two named defendants in the lawsuit, have filed a formal response in court.