Welcome!

News Feed Item

Former San Diego State Women's Basketball Coach Beth Burns Files Suit Against University For Unlawful Firing

Complaint Details School's Lack of Cause For Firing, and Retaliation After She Demanded Equality in Athletics

SAN DIEGO, Feb. 19, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Attorneys for former San Diego State University (SDSU) coach Mary Elizabeth "Beth" Burns filed suit against the university today in the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego.

The complaint details Burns' unlawful termination by the California State University (CSU) and SDSU in April 2013, following 16 years of success as head coach of the Aztec women's basketball team.  Burns is the winningest coach in SDSU women's basketball history, with an overall 295-186 record that includes six conference championships, four tournament titles, seven NCAA tournament appearances, nine twenty win seasons, and a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2010.

Burns is represented in the matter by Edward D. Chapin, Kenneth M. Fitzgerald and Jennifer Arnold of Chapin Fitzgerald LLP, and Allison Goddard of San Diego.

"San Diego State fired Coach Burns without good cause, and without any legitimate reason," said Chapin.  "Although she provided exceptional leadership to the team and her staff on and off the court and was committed to excellence in every facet of its women's basketball program, she was forced to resign solely because of her unwavering insistence that the institution put women's basketball on an equal footing with the athletic resources and opportunities provided to men at the university."

The filing asserts that SDSU fabricated a false explanation for Burns' termination that has been intentionally and devastatingly harmful to her career. Despite an exceptional record as a NCAA Division I coach, she has not been able to secure another coaching position because of the university's unlawful actions.

"The university made a feeble attempt to cover up its real reason for firing Beth Burns by trumping up a charge that she intentionally struck a subordinate," said Fitzgerald.  "An objective view of the incident relied on by the university as the purported cause for her firing shows nothing warranting the termination of her employment contract.  Indeed, public reaction after seeing video of the incident has been to question what the real reason was for her dismissal, since the video shows nothing coming close to a firing offense.  The video evidence produced by the university shows Burns' excited reactions to a defensive breakdown and a 'Hail Mary' shot - harmless contact with an assistant coach."

The complaint further states that Richel Thaler, SDSU's associate vice president, and Jim Sterk, SDSU's athletic director, threatened to terminate Burns and withhold her retirement benefits if she did not voluntarily resign. 

"Faced with the loss of her hard-earned retirement benefits, she had little choice but to step down," said  Chapin "As a result, her coaching career and her reputation have suffered irreparable damage. She is filing this action to ensure her side of the story is heard, and that SDSU is held accountable for its misconduct and the lasting harm that has resulted from it."

Burns first headed the Aztec women's basketball program from 1989 to 1997.  She left the school to serve in a similar position at The Ohio State University, and later as the strength and conditioning coach at Stanford University.  In 2005, she returned to SDSU, where she resumed her position as head women's basketball coach.

At the time of her termination in 2013, Burns was in the first year of a 5-year employment contract with the university that extended her head coaching responsibilities through June 30, 2017.

Throughout her employment at SDSU, Burns and members of her staff repeatedly challenged the institution's disparate treatment of its women's basketball program compared to men's sports, such as football and basketball.  Working under five athletic directors during her second stint as head women's basketball coach, she regularly confronted these athletic directors with evidence of significant disparities in the provision of equipment and supplies, budgets, personnel resources, compensation of coaches and tutors, practice facilities, housing support and publicity for the women's team.

The complaint details how Burns had to fight for her team to have academic support, including supervised study time, tutors, class schedules, clean gear and equipment, a strength coach and facility time during the off-season, even though the Aztec's male basketball players regularly received these resources. Numerous specific instances of disparity are detailed. In addition, the university required Burns to count male practice players as females in her annual report to the U.S. Department of Education.

At the time she was forced to retire, Burns had recently completed a record-setting season for which she had received recognition as Mountain West Coach of the Year, WBCA NCAA Division I Region 7 Coach of the year, and a finalist for NCAA Division I National Coach of the Year.

Days after she was forced to retire from the Aztec's women's basketball program, SDSU reluctantly provided her with a copy of the February 2013 video that university officials claim documents their "sole cause" for her termination; however, the incident on the film does not support a termination decision.  The complaint describes how the university's overreaction to the incidental physical contact between Burns and a member of her staff is a stark contrast to SDSU's handling of an incident in which former football coach Tom Craft slapped a freshman player in 2002.

Burns was awarded the right to sue SDSU in this matter by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing in October. CSU rejected the coach's tort claim related to her firing in November.

The complaint alleges the Board of Trustees of CSU and SDSU breached Burns' employment contract and that SDSU breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing as well as retaliated against her in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

General, compensatory and special damages, punitive and exemplary damages, interest at the highest legal rate, attorneys fees, and reimbursement of all Burns' legal costs, including expert witness fees are requested by Burns' attorneys and a jury trial is requested.

About Chapin Fitzgerald

Chapin Fitzgerald LLP is a boutique litigation firm of highly experienced trial attorneys committed to aggressive, honest advocacy. Focused exclusively on trying cases and handling controversies, its practice is limited to trial and litigation matters. The firm represents both plaintiffs and defendants, and it advocates for corporate entities as well as individuals. Chapin Fitzgerald's lawyers have represented some of the most sophisticated clients in the business world, as well as championed the causes of vulnerable individuals wronged by powerful corporate and government interests. Whatever the particular matter, the firm's overriding commitment is to represent all clients vigorously and thoughtfully, with civility, integrity and professionalism.

Chapin Fitzgerald prides itself as a firm known for representing the underdog, ready to take on large corporate entities.  Regardless of who the firm represents, it is committed to excellence in the courtroom and relishes the chance to tell a client's story to a jury. For more information, visit www.cftriallawyers.com

SOURCE Chapin Fitzgerald LLP

More Stories By PR Newswire

Copyright © 2007 PR Newswire. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PRNewswire content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of PRNewswire. PRNewswire shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

Latest Stories
Video experiences should be unique and exciting! But that doesn’t mean you need to patch all the pieces yourself. Users demand rich and engaging experiences and new ways to connect with you. But creating robust video applications at scale can be complicated, time-consuming and expensive. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Zohar Babin, Vice President of Platform, Ecosystem and Community at Kaltura, discussed how VPaaS enables you to move fast, creating scalable video experiences that reach your aud...
Regulatory requirements exist to promote the controlled sharing of information, while protecting the privacy and/or security of the information. Regulations for each type of information have their own set of rules, policies, and guidelines. Cloud Service Providers (CSP) are faced with increasing demand for services at decreasing prices. Demonstrating and maintaining compliance with regulations is a nontrivial task and doing so against numerous sets of regulatory requirements can be daunting task...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Fusion, a leading provider of cloud services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Fusion, a leading provider of integrated cloud solutions to small, medium and large businesses, is the industry’s single source for the cloud. Fusion’s advanced, proprietary cloud service platform enables the integration of leading edge solutions in the cloud, including clou...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud taking place June 6-8, 2017, at Javits Center, New York City, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long developm...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life sett...
Get deep visibility into the performance of your databases and expert advice for performance optimization and tuning. You can't get application performance without database performance. Give everyone on the team a comprehensive view of how every aspect of the system affects performance across SQL database operations, host server and OS, virtualization resources and storage I/O. Quickly find bottlenecks and troubleshoot complex problems.
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain. In this power panel at @...
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
"MathFreeOn.com is a line coding platform for engineers and scientists. When they want to solve an engineering problem and they have to use software - they have to pay a lot of money for licenses - but with MathFreeOn you don't have to pay a lot of money. Just go to our site and write the code and you can check the result right away," explained Simon Lee, CMO of MathFreeOn, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Cla...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dataloop.IO, an innovator in cloud IT-monitoring whose products help organizations save time and money, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Dataloop.IO is an emerging software company on the cutting edge of major IT-infrastructure trends including cloud computing and microservices. The company, founded in the UK but now based in San Fran...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
The many IoT deployments around the world are busy integrating smart devices and sensors into their enterprise IT infrastructures. Yet all of this technology – and there are an amazing number of choices – is of no use without the software to gather, communicate, and analyze the new data flows. Without software, there is no IT. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation; Alan Williamson, Principal...
Infrastructure is widely available, but who’s managing inbound/outbound traffic? Data is created, stored, and managed online – who is protecting it and how? In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Jaeson Yoo, SVP of Business Development at Penta Security Systems Inc., discussed how to keep any and all infrastructure clean, safe, and efficient by monitoring and filtering all malicious HTTP/HTTPS traffic at the OSI Layer 7. Stop attacks and web intruders before they can enter your network.