Drake University denied the lawsuit’s allegations in a statement, and said it couldn’t comment on the coach’s termination due to privacy laws.
Courtney Graham was hired by head coach Jennie Baranczyk in 2012, and received rave reviews, bonuses, and a promotion during her three years at Drake, according to the lawsuit.
“I love Courtney’s passion and her overall vision not just in basketball but in life,” Baranczyk said in a statement announcing Graham’s hiring. “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.”
But all that changed when Graham brought her girlfriend to a home game, according to her lawsuit filed against Baranczyk and Drake University.
That same month, Baranczyk allegedly “called in [Graham] and told her ‘she was not acting like herself’ and forced her to take time off,” the lawsuit claims, adding, “after discovery of [Graham’s] sexual orientation, she was sent home multiple times at [Baranczyk’s] request but without explanation or write-up.”
Graham’s suit claims the discrimination also manifested in more subtle ways. She was allegedly left out of the loop about team meetings, scouting trips, and other events that were crucial to doing her job.
“After discovery of Plaintiff’s sexual orientation, she was slowly and systematically stripped of her duties as Assistant Head Coach until her only remaining duties were that of an Intern,” the lawsuit claims.
And Graham also claims that Baranczyk revealed personal medical information about Graham to other staff members. Graham has ADHD, which the university knew about, according to the lawsuit, and did not require any special accommodations. But other employees allegedly approached Graham to inquire about her medications and therapy.
Five months later, she was asked to resign, the lawsuit states. She held out for a month, despite follow-up requests by text message, before resigning “under duress” in June.
Graham claims that the university violated Iowa’s non-discrimination law and discriminated against her based on her sexual orientation. Iowa is one of just 21 states that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The lawsuit seeks damages for loss of income, emotional distress, discrimination, and damage to her reputation. Graham claims that when she tried to get other coaching jobs elsewhere, Baranczyk and Drake provided negative references.
The university denied Graham’s claims. “Prior to filing the lawsuit, Ms. Graham made similar allegations in a complaint before the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, the agency responsible for investigating and adjudicating civil rights violations in Iowa,” the university said. “Both parties were given an opportunity to submit facts and documentation supporting their claims and defenses, and the Commission dismissed Ms. Graham’s complaint at the earliest possible stage.”
Graham’s lawsuit claims the ICRC and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission both issued right to sue orders on her behalf.
The ICRC and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission did not respond to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment on Graham’s case—and the apparent discrepancy between her account and the university’s regarding their involvement—by press time.
“Drake University and head women’s basketball coach Jennie Baranczyk have a strong commitment to diversity, tolerance, and non-discrimination,” the university added.