Click here to close now.




















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
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in Silicon Valley. 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 Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading in...
The 3rd International WebRTC Summit, to be held Nov. 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 15th International Cloud Expo, 6th International Big Data Expo, 3rd International DevOps Summit and 2nd Internet of @ThingsExpo. WebRTC (Web-based Real-Time Com...
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
Organizations from small to large are increasingly adopting cloud solutions to deliver essential business services at a much lower cost. According to cyber security experts, the frequency and severity of cyber-attacks are on the rise, causing alarm to businesses and customers across a variety of industries. To defend against exploits like these, a company must adopt a comprehensive security defense strategy that is designed for their business. In 2015, organizations such as United Airlines, Sony...
ElasticBox, the agile application delivery manager, announced freely available public boxes for the DevOps community. ElasticBox works with enterprises to help them deploy any application to any cloud. Public boxes are curated reference boxes that represent some of the most popular applications and tools for orchestrating deployments at scale. Boxes are an adaptive way to represent reusable infrastructure as components of code. Boxes contain scripts, variables, and metadata to automate proces...
Through WebRTC, audio and video communications are being embedded more easily than ever into applications, helping carriers, enterprises and independent software vendors deliver greater functionality to their end users. With today’s business world increasingly focused on outcomes, users’ growing calls for ease of use, and businesses craving smarter, tighter integration, what’s the next step in delivering a richer, more immersive experience? That richer, more fully integrated experience comes ab...
Containers are not new, but renewed commitments to performance, flexibility, and agility have propelled them to the top of the agenda today. By working without the need for virtualization and its overhead, containers are seen as the perfect way to deploy apps and services across multiple clouds. Containers can handle anything from file types to operating systems and services, including microservices. What are microservices? Unlike what the name implies, microservices are not necessarily small,...
The 17th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. 17th International Cloud Expo, to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, APM, APIs, Microservices, Security, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps 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 bu...
The 5th International DevOps Summit, co-located with 17th International Cloud Expo – being held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that the "Second Containers & Microservices Expo" will take place November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities.
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lee Williams, a producer of the first smartphones and tablets, will talk about how he is now applying his experience in mobile technology to the design and development of the next generation of Environmental and Sustainability Services at ETwater. He will explain how M2M controllers work through wirelessly connected remote controls; and specifically delve into a retrofit option that reverse-engineers control codes of existing conventional controller systems so the...
DevOps Summit, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th 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 development...
Akana has announced the availability of the new Akana Healthcare Solution. The API-driven solution helps healthcare organizations accelerate their transition to being secure, digitally interoperable businesses. It leverages the Health Level Seven International Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (HL7 FHIR) standard to enable broader business use of medical data. Akana developed the Healthcare Solution in response to healthcare businesses that want to increase electronic, multi-device acce...
Mobile, social, Big Data, and cloud have fundamentally changed the way we live. “Anytime, anywhere” access to data and information is no longer a luxury; it’s a requirement, in both our personal and professional lives. For IT organizations, this means pressure has never been greater to deliver meaningful services to the business and customers.
In 2014, the market witnessed a massive migration to the cloud as enterprises finally overcame their fears of the cloud’s viability, security, etc. Over the past 18 months, AWS, Google and Microsoft have waged an ongoing battle through a wave of price cuts and new features. For IT executives, sorting through all the noise to make the best cloud investment decisions has become daunting. Enterprises can and are moving away from a "one size fits all" cloud approach. The new competitive field has ...