College Softball News

Louisiana Lafayette Faces Gender Discrimination Complaints from Softball Players

Nine female softball players, Aleah Craighton, Alyssa Denham, Chelsea Lotief, Doni Sanders, Miranda Grotenhuis, Sarah Koeppen, Shae Schreckengost, Kimber Cortemelia and Teryn Haley Pritchett, have filed complaints in federal court against the University of Louisiana Lafayette. They are alleging that they were deprived of appropriate trainers, comparable playing facilities, equipment, and supplies as the same was provided to their similarly situated male athletes.

“Following the firing of their coach, the female softball players of the University of Louisiana were locked out of their locker room and left with uncertain futures,” Shreveport law firm Allison A. Jones, of Downer, Jones, Marino & Wilhite said in a release on Wednesday.

“Now, those violations are being investigated by the Office of Civil Rights due to efforts by nine former, female softball players to ensure compliance with the law. In November 2017, just weeks after Coach Michael Lotief, one the nation’s most successful softball coaches, informed administrators at the University of Louisiana Lafayette, that ongoing Title IX violations needed to be remedied, Coach Lotief was fired (for reasons which are now being challenged as pretextual for retaliation).

They have decided to fight back by filing complaints with the Office of Civil Rights for Title IX violations and by threatening litigation.

They further allege that their coaches were denied payment, scholarships were not properly honored, and that, despite their complaints regarding Title IX violations, no appropriate remedial action was taken.

The players have now retained counsel, Allison A. Jones, of the law firm Downer, Jones, Marino & Wilhite, to pursue their claims. Ms. Jones, a well-known civil rights advocate for women, is also representing four female professors, Lise Anne Slatten, Lucy Henke, Patricia Lanier, and Gwen Fontenot, who have filed claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging sexual harassment and blatant gender discrimination by the University of Louisiana Lafayette.

Both the softball players and the female professors have stated that they are committed to taking all steps necessary to ensure compliance with the law. Counsel for both echoed that commitment: “The University of Louisiana Lafayette has a shameful record of condoning gender discrimination — for both students and faculty. The University has consistently failed to adopt necessary policies to prevent gender discrimination, has failed to investigate complaints of gender discrimination and, instead, has chosen to engage in a modus operandi of retaliating against any complainant.

Coach Lotief’s case is just one example, and the University’s conduct has extended to the female softball players and female professors – all of whom have only asked that policies of the University comply with the law. If University students are being asked to become agents of change, then my clients are prepared to lead the charge.

Each of my clients is committed to seeing gender equity at the University of Louisiana Lafayette become a fact. The University’s Administration should: (i) ask serious questions of its Human Resource department, and legal counsel; (ii) find a way to resolve all these conflicts as soon as possible; and (iii) immediately begin to support gender equity in all programs. The students and faculty deserve no less. If the current Administration cannot accomplish gender equity, then perhaps a change in the Administration is required.

Lotief was fired last November by the school who claimed that Lotief violated university policies by subjecting student-athletes and coworkers to violent, vulgar language and verbal and physical assault, creating a hostile learning and working environment.

The school responded on Wednesday with the statement below

“The University of Louisiana at Lafayette disputes the allegations presented today by lawyer Allison Jones. The University has been fully compliant with the law and all complaints have been promptly and effectively investigated. The University takes Title IX, gender equity, and discrimination claims seriously, but will strongly defend itself from patently false and baseless allegations.
The issues of the College of Business are wholly unrelated to the assertions raised by a few Lotief-era players. The only connection between these claims is the same Shreveport lawyer.
Michael Lotief’s termination was not related to gender equity claims. Following allegations by female students and employees, Lotief was terminated in 2017 for violating the University’s Prohibited Sexual Conduct and Violence Free Workplace policies, subjecting student-athletes and coworkers to sexually hostile situations, vulgar language and behavior, and creating a hostile learning and working environment.
The University encourages a culture of inclusion on its campus. Gender equity is a pillar of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s core values.”
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