woman wearing hijab  at an outdoor football sporting complex as a soccer coach

Are Female Coaches Treated Differently from Male Colleagues?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits gender-based and other discrimination in the workplace. Title IX also prohibits discrimination in educational institutions that receive any federal funds.

Unfortunately, female coaches face Title IX and other internal investigations that their male colleagues more often avoid. Discriminatory investigations put their livelihood and reputation on the line. Women must retain legal counsel experienced in defending Title IX cases on college campuses.

Female Coaches & Gender Discrimination

A female gymnastics coach at Towson University in Maryland filed a lawsuit in August 2021 claiming she was fired because of her gender and for complaining that male coaches were treated differently.

Victoria May’s nine years as a coach brought "Coach of the Year" honors three times, and she received excellent performance reviews. Some team members did complain in 2018 about her rigid coaching style. These complaints were followed by others in 2019, after which she was placed on extended administrative leave.

During the university’s investigation, May alleged that the school often looked the other way when complaints were made against male coaches. A male coach accused of sexually assaulting an athlete was not put on administrative leave during the investigation. Another coach wasn’t investigated at all when student-athletes complained about his aggressive coaching style.

When the investigation of May was completed, she was cleared and reinstated only to be fired two weeks later. She was eight months pregnant.

Lawsuit Against the University

In her lawsuit against the university, May alleged it was stereotypes of her gender, her pregnancy, and her complaints of inequity that led to her firing. She also alleges that male and female coaches are generally treated differently because of stereotypes. Female leaders who are assertive or aggressive are viewed negatively while those same traits are praised in men.

Her complaint includes claims under Title VII and Title IX.

In early 2022, Towson University asked a federal judge to dismiss her lawsuit. As of this date, the judge has yet to rule.

The lawsuit against Towson University isn’t unique:

  • Six female head coaches filed a complaint in 2021 against Colby College in Maine, alleging they are asked to perform more work for less pay.
  • A women’s hockey coach at the University of Minnesota-Duluth sued for gender discrimination, and won, for being let go in 2014 despite winning national championships and no NCAA violations.
  • Iowa University settled a discrimination lawsuit filed by a female field hockey coach. Her lawsuit alleged the school fired her because of her gender, her sexual orientation, and her speaking up about male colleagues receiving more pay.

Male coaches also get investigated and fired. Anecdotal evidence simply shows it happens more often among female coaches. Fired male coaches also appear more likely to be rehired at other institutions.

Part of the problem might be the dwindling numbers of female coaches in general. In 1972, when Title IX came into being, 90% of female college teams were coached by women. By 2018, that number had dropped to 40%.

Defend Employment Rights Under Title IX

All school employees from coaches to graduate assistants are protected by Title IX. If you believe that you are the subject of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, or sex/gender discrimination, contact an experienced attorney at Parisi, Coan & Saccocio, PLLC.

Our firm fights for those facing unfair and unjust investigations or tribunals. We are lawyers who protect your rights and demand that you are treated in an impartial and transparent manner.

To learn more about our Title IX legal services, schedule a free initial consultation. Call (737) 200-2332 or complete our online form.