Varsity women athletes at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) filed a class sex discrimination lawsuit against the school today for violating Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by treating its female student-athletes much worse than its male student-athletes and retaliating against them for seeking equal treatment. Title IX, a federal civil rights law, prohibits sex discrimination at UCO and all educational institutions that receive federal funds.
The female student-athletes who filed the suit are members of the women’s cross country, indoor track & field, and outdoor track & field teams at UCO, which—unlike any men’s teams—are provided no locker room, no competitive facility, and required to practice at a local middle school. When they complained about the unequal treatment they and other women athletes received, UCO fired their head coach.
“UCO’s second-class treatment of its female student-athletes and retaliation against them for seeking equal treatment are both blatant violations of Title IX, ” said Bailey Glasser partner Arthur H. Bryant, lead counsel for the women. “The women on the track & field and cross country teams make up 35% of UCO’s female student-athletes and are treated far worse than all of its male student-athletes. The men on the football and wrestling teams make up 69% of UCO’s male student-athletes and are treated far better than all of its female student-athletes. It is hard to imagine a clearer case of unequal treatment. UCO’s retaliation against the women for challenging its flagrant sex discrimination shows how bad things are. Why is UCO so opposed to equality?”
“What we are seeking is what the law requires: equal treatment and freedom from retaliation,” said Tatum Robertson, a UCO senior and thrower on the women’s track and field teams who has been in the top 25 in the conference for the past two years. “UCO should have responded to our request by agreeing to treat women equally, not by firing our coach. Title IX has been the law for 50 years now. UCO needs to comply with it and start treating all female and male student-athletes equally. “
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, seeks to force UCO to treat its female and male student-athletes equally, make UCO pay damages for retaliating against its female student-athletes, and bar it from retaliating against them in the future.
In addition to Robertson, the lawsuit was filed by UCO student-athletes Eve Brennan and Marin Rhodes.
In addition to Bryant, the women are represented by Bailey Glasser’s Lori Bullock in Des Moines, IA, and Cary Joshi, Joshua Hammack, and Sallie Gilbert in Washington, DC, along with Frank Frasier and Maureen Johnson of Frasier, Frasier, Hickman, LLP, in Tulsa, OK.
Bryant has successfully represented more female (and male) student-athletes and potential student-athletes in Title IX litigation against schools and universities than any lawyer in the country, including in Oklahoma. In April 1990, his threatened Title IX suit prompted the University of Oklahoma to reinstate its women’s basketball team, which the school had announced one week earlier it was eliminating. He and Bailey Glasser’s Title IX team recently won groundbreaking settlements for female student-athletes at eight universities that announced they were eliminating women’s varsity intercollegiate athletic teams, including Brown University, the College of William & Mary, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, East Carolina University, Dartmouth College, the University of St. Thomas, La Salle University, and Dickinson College. They also won an historic settlement – the first Title IX victory ever for male student-athletes – with Clemson University after the school became the first facing class actions suits by both its male and female student-athletes for violating Title IX by discriminating against them in different ways.