Former Basketball Coach Alleges She was Forced to Resign for Being Gay, Sues School

Drake University’s former Assistant Basketball Coach Courtney Graham says the school’s head coach of that sport fired her for being gay—and subjected her to damaging gossip, discrimination and mistreatment.

DES MOINES, Iowa — A former assistant women’s basketball coach at Drake University has filed a federal lawsuit against the school alleging her employer forced her to resign after learning she is a lesbian.

Courtney Graham filed the suit Friday in the U.S. District Court in Des Moines. In it, she says that after she invited her then-partner and now-wife Kristal Flowers to a home game in 2014, Head Coach Jennie Barancyzk called Graham into her office and demanded that she take time off work, claiming Graham “was not acting like herself.” Barancyzk forced her to endure vicious gossip and anti-LGBTQ harassment, culminating in Graham’s termination approximately six months later. Barancyck’s actions as reported in the suit directly violate Iowa’s Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Des Moines Register reports that, “Baranczyk sent Graham home multiple times without explanation, excluded her from team meetings and scouting trips, and stripped her of job duties until the only remaining tasks she had were similar to those of an intern. Baranczyk also encouraged degrading conversations within the department regarding Graham’s treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The complaint states that Baranczyk first requested Graham’s resignation in May of 2015, and that the head coach failed to provide her assistant coach with any official or legitimate reason for asking her to leave. Graham attempted to continue fulfilling her duties, but Baranczyk consistently berated her through text messages and emails until Graham ultimately felt pressured to submit a resignation letter in June of the same year.

The lawsuit also says Graham has experienced difficulties finding another job in the coaching field because of “negative information” Drake erroneously gave prospective employers.

Baranczyk and the university are the only named defendants in the lawsuit, which accuses both parties of violating the Iowa Civil Rights Act, negligence, retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and harassment. Drake University and Baranczyk have yet to file a formal response in court or respond to requests for comment.

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