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
The Internet of Things can drive efficiency for airlines and airports. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Sudip Majumder, senior director of development at Oracle, discussed the technical details of the connected airline baggage and related social media solutions. These IoT applications will enhance travelers' journey experience and drive efficiency for the airlines and the airports.
Addteq is one of the top 10 Platinum Atlassian Experts who specialize in DevOps, custom and continuous integration, automation, plugin development, and consulting for midsize and global firms. Addteq firmly believes that automation is essential for successful software releases. Addteq centers its products and services around this fundamentally unique approach to delivering complete software release management solutions. With a combination of Addteq's services and our extensive list of partners,...
In 2014, Amazon announced a new form of compute called Lambda. We didn't know it at the time, but this represented a fundamental shift in what we expect from cloud computing. Now, all of the major cloud computing vendors want to take part in this disruptive technology. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, John Jelinek IV, a web developer at Linux Academy, will discuss why major players like AWS, Microsoft Azure, IBM Bluemix, and Google Cloud Platform are all trying to sidestep VMs and containers...
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.
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
Wooed by the promise of faster innovation, lower TCO, and greater agility, businesses of every shape and size have embraced the cloud at every layer of the IT stack – from apps to file sharing to infrastructure. The typical organization currently uses more than a dozen sanctioned cloud apps and will shift more than half of all workloads to the cloud by 2018. Such cloud investments have delivered measurable benefits. But they’ve also resulted in some unintended side-effects: complexity and risk. ...
WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web communications world. The 6th WebRTC Summit continues our tradition of delivering the latest and greatest presentations within the world of WebRTC. Topics include voice calling, video chat, P2P file sharing, and use cases that have already leveraged the power and convenience of WebRTC.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named “Platinum 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, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business – from apparel to energy – is being rewritten by software. From ...
With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo are two of the most important technology events of the year. Since its launch over eight years ago, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo have presented a rock star faculty as well as showcased hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors! In this blog post, I provide 7 tips on how, as part of our world-class faculty, you can deliver one of the most popular sessions at our events. But before reading the...
"Storage is growing. All of IDC's estimates say that unstructured data is now 80% of the world's data. We provide storage systems that can actually deal with that scale of data - software-defined storage systems," stated Paul Turner, Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Cloudian, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 17th Cloud Expo, held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The best way to leverage your Cloud Expo presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at Cloud Expo. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audiences.
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.
Bert Loomis was a visionary. This general session will highlight how Bert Loomis and people like him inspire us to build great things with small inventions. In their general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Architect at IBM Bluemix, and Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at Nvidia, discussed the accelerating pace of AI development and how IBM Cloud and NVIDIA are partnering to bring AI capabilities to "every day," on-demand. They also reviewed two "free infrastructure" pr...
Cloud Expo, Inc. has announced today that Aruna Ravichandran, vice president of DevOps Product and Solutions Marketing at CA Technologies, has been named co-conference chair of DevOps at Cloud Expo 2017. The @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo New York will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, and @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo Silicon Valley will take place Oct. 31-Nov. 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Have you ever noticed how some IT people seem to lead successful, rewarding, and satisfying lives and careers, while others struggle? IT author and speaker Don Crawley uncovered the five principles that successful IT people use to build satisfying lives and careers and he shares them in this fast-paced, thought-provoking webinar. You'll learn the importance of striking a balance with technical skills and people skills, challenge your pre-existing ideas about IT customer service, and gain new in...