DULUTH — The University of Minnesota Duluth and three former women's sports coaches have filed appeals of a federal case that resulted in a substantial verdict for one plaintiff but dismissal for two others.
As it stands, former women's hockey coach Shannon MIller would receive $1.96 million in damages, with UMD also ordered to pay $2.53 million in attorneys' fees, expenses and interest. A federal jury in March 2018 found the school liable for sex discrimination and retaliation in the December 2014 decision not to offer Miller a new contract after 16 seasons, including five national championships.
U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz dismissed additional claims from Miller, former women's basketball coach Annette Wiles and former softball coach and women's hockey operations director Jen Banford ahead of trial. Those counts included allegations of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation — an issue Schiltz said he lacked jurisdiction to hear in federal court.
The plaintiffs earlier this month officially filed a notice of appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, citing various issues including the dismissal of those claims, an order sharply reducing Miller's award and an order denying Miller's motion for reinstatement but granting her limited damages for future lost wages.
UMD on Monday filed its own notice of appeal, challenging several issues including Miller's judgment, the award of front pay and an order denying the university's motion to overturn the verdict or grant a new trial.
Separately, the three coaches have petitioned the Minnesota Supreme Court to review the dismissal of a state lawsuit alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. That case, filed after the dismissal of the claims at the federal level, was tossed after a judge determined that the statute of limitations had expired.
Attorneys indicated earlier this month that a tentative agreement has been reached between UMD and Miller to resolve her claims at both the federal and state levels. However, both sides are moving forward with appeals for the time being, as that agreement has yet to be formally executed.
That settlement would have no impact on Wiles and Banford. The future of their claims in federal court may hinge on a forthcoming decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, which earlier this month heard oral arguments on the issue of whether the Civil Rights Act covers sexual orientation.
It likely will be several months before the coaches' appeal is heard, as the 8th Circuit on Friday agreed to suspend the briefing process until the high court rules on that issue.