Miller seeks reinstatement
Former women's hockey coach Shannon Miller is pursuing further legal actions hoping to either be reinstated or awarded $3 million. On March 15, 2018 Miller was awarded $3.74 million for past wages and emotional distress. Miller’s state and federal trials will not affect student tuition.
Miller said that going on to a state level lawsuit wasn’t her choice. According to Miller, it was the federal judge’s choice.
“That was the wish of UMD,” Miller said. “We were trying to file suit in one court to have one court case.”
Miller said that UMD requested to have the two cases separated at the last minute.
According to Lynne Williams, the director of marketing and public relations, there were things the federal court could not rule on. Williams said the judge issued a stay of proceedings on the federal case because there were issues the jury could not decide upon. Front pay, money awarded for lost compensation, was one of the issues.
“Our attorneys had said all along that their next step in the process, once the verdict is fully reached, which includes the front pay, would be for them to move forward with a series of post trial motions,” Williams said.
Williams stated that the judge had asked both sides to attend a global settlement conference over the summer in an attempt for both sides to reach a settlement agreement, which they didn’t.
“The attempt was made in good faith to try and reach a settlement agreement,” Williams said.
Williams said the two sides not reaching an agreement was what set things back in motion and stated both sides got to submit their justification for trial.
According to public United States Court District of Minnesota documents on the case, all three plaintiffs contend that they lost their jobs and suffered a hostile work environment on account of their sexual orientation. The same document states that these are the strongest claims.
“The federal judge said that this is our best evidence,” Miller said. “It’s about sexual orientation discrimination as well as other claims, but that’s the biggest one.”
According to Miller, she is very grateful for the support she has received and said the people dishing out backlash are “clueless about the facts of the case.”
“They’re choosing to believe the Athletic Director [Josh] Berlo or some of his disciples,” Miller said. “It’s not factual. They took the stand at the federal trial and lied.”
UMD Athletic Director Josh Berlo was not available for comments.
Miller said UMD continues to lie and stated the people who know the truth are extremely supportive.
“They are well educated on what’s going on,” Miller said. “Others that throw stones are clearly not educated. They just don’t know the truth so it's not a big deal.”
According to Williams, the judge will make a ruling to decide what moves forward and what does not within 90 days of the state court hearing, which was held July 12, 2018.
Depending on the rulings, Williams said the case could either be wrapped up shortly or continue on for years.
“Of course [UMD] doesn’t want to drag this out,” Williams said. “On the one hand, we’re going to stand by our convictions. We still continue to believe that we made the right decision for the long term of the women’s hockey program.”
According to Miller, there are a lot of people who say they’re disappointed that this case is dragging on. Miller placed the blame on UMD.
“UMD is the one dragging this out,” Miller said. “Not me, not Jen Banford, not Annette Wiles.”
Jen Banford, who coached the UMD women’s softball team, and Annette Wiles, who coached the women’s basketball team, are also seeking similar legal action against the university.
Williams said that this case is something UMD does not want to continue making headlines. The University wants to continue moving forward by focusing on the students and current programs.
“We’ve kept this in a small circle,” Williams said. “We don’t want this affecting everybody on campus. I don’t want this consuming the time of the athletic coaches. They need to be focusing on their current year students.”
Miller stated that she wishes to be reinstated at UMD.
“At the last settlement conference that we had, the judge mediating the conference asked me what I wanted and I said I wanted to be reinstated,” Miller said. “I want to coach again.”
Miller said she's proven that by taking a job in Calgary, Alberta.
According to Williams, UMD is very pleased with the current women’s hockey coach and the culture of that program.
Miller wants to continue being the best coach and human being she possibly can and wishes to continue to serve her athletes and bring out the best in them.
“That’s always been my goal and that will continue to be my goal,” Miller said. “I find that very rewarding.”
Williams stated that as a UMD alum it’s always difficult to see an institution that you care so much about go through difficult times.
“I believe in this institution and I believe in this institution’s leadership,” Williams said. “Every time students come back, there’s an energy, there’s an excitement. That's why we do what we do.”
Miller said that all the young men and women at UMD should want an environment that is free of discrimination.
“Whether it’s for women, for gays, for students of minority, whatever the situation may be,” Miller said. “It’s something that we should all strive for and if it's not there then you should speak up and fight back. That's the only way we’re going to create change. Hopefully the world will be a better place and hopefully UMD will be a better place by the time that this is all over.”
According to Miller, she hasn’t received one dollar from the federal lawsuit yet stating that she has to get through the state court first.
Williams said that the University pays out settlements with a fund set aside by the regients. The already awarded $3.7 million and the possible $3 million in the upcoming state level lawsuit will not affect tuition or UMD’s overall budget.
For more information and coverage on Millers case, check out these articles from The Bark.