A wrongful termination suit filed by the 70-year-old ex-head coach of the Fullerton Aquatics Sports Team (FAST) in California has been decided in favor of the organization. The man had accused FAST of terminating him from the head coach and chief operating officer position because he was elderly. The organization argued the man’s inappropriate conduct caused him to be fired.
Official reports show the man coached at FAST during its designation as a USA Swimming Center of Excellence. As a steward of USA Swimming, the man was required to abide by that organization’s code of conduct and guidelines for athlete protection. Those rules prohibit any kind of sexual conduct or advance directed toward an athlete by an authority figure. FAST administrators say the coach violated that code. They claim allegations of sexual misconduct began to surface in May 2011. The man was fired that July.
Courtroom testimony indicates the man continually made sexual comments to athletes at the facility, including sexual references to female body parts, sex acts and other inappropriate topics. The man reportedly made these comments in front of other FAST employees. He was fired shortly after these allegations came to light, despite his efforts to identify his accusers.
Although the man was accused of other breaches of employment contract, the jury seemed most interested in evaluating the sexual harassment claims when making its decision. The inappropriate conduct against female athletes may have been the deciding factor in this case.
Ultimately, the jury ruled in favor of FAST in this case, approving the organization’s cross complaint against the coach for breach of contract action. It is not clear whether the man will be required to pay financial damages to his former employer.
This case illustrates the complexities of employment law. Although the man may have made inappropriate comments, he did not necessarily deserve to be fired. Instead, counseling and other interventions could have improved his relationship with the athletes. If you think you have been unfairly fired, seek the services of a qualified employment attorney.
Source: swimswam.com, “Bill Jewell unsuccessful in wrongful termination lawsuit against FAST” Ceci Christy, May. 20, 2013