Fired Mt. SAC Volleyball Coach Alleges Gender Discrimination

School gymnasium

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POMONA (CNS) - A former women's volleyball coach is suing Mt. San Antonio Community College and the Mt. San Antonio Community College District, alleging she was wrongfully fired in 2020 for advocating for female student athletes to be treated fairly and equitably, and unfairly criticized for using curse words often used by men.

Allison Carey-Oliver's Pomona Superior Court lawsuit alleges wrongful termination, gender discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination and conduct an adequate investigation, retaliation and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

She seeks unspecified compensatory damages.

"Defendants chose to fire a great coach because she advocated for gender equality on behalf of herself, her program and her student athletes in an effort to silence her and others who might bring concerns forward," according to her suit, which further alleges that the plaintiff "was impacted by gender bias and stereotypes in the assessment of her performance and retaliated against for bringing forward concerns and complaints of gender inequities."

A Mt. SAC representative said she would check to see if the school had a comment on the suit filed Tuesday.

Carey-Oliver, now 45, was hired in the summer of 2016 as a professor of kinesiology and was paid a stipend for serving as the school's head women's volleyball coach, the suit states. In fall 2018, Carey-Oliver received complaints about her coaching behavior from two of her student athletes that she did not find out about until December of that year, the suit states.

The plaintiff allegedly was told by the school's athletic director that an investigation cleared her of any wrongdoing.

Carey-Oliver also raised concerns over weight room usage for women's volleyball being inequitable, said fundraising opportunities were unequal and that sports information for women did not match that of male sports, the suit states.

"Coach Carey-Oliver and other female coaches were told that because they were women, they probably don't know much about training athletes in the weight room," according to the suit.

The plaintiff also believes she was judged differently compared to male coaches when it came to how she dressed for class.

During a meeting with Mt. SAC's human resources office and the plaintiff's tenure committee, Carey-Oliver was told she was prohibited from using curse words based on student complaints, which she believed was discriminatory given that "male coaches used curse words all the time," the suit states.

Carey-Oliver's tenure committee denied her tenure in December 2019 and she was notified two months later that she was being terminated at the end of the 2019-20 academic year, the suit states. Her appeal of her termination was denied in October, according to the suit, which further states that former and current players had shown support for her in person and in letters to the college Board of Trustees.

The tenure review that later led to Carey-Oliver's termination was directly related to the complaints about her use of curse words, according to the suit, but the plaintiff alleges she was actually "terminated under pretext" and that the real reason she was stripped of her job was because she "repeatedly objected to defendants' discriminatory practices."

Carey-Oliver has experienced financial job benefit losses and also suffered humiliation, embarrassment and other emotional distress as a result of losing her job, the suit states.

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