No ‘inequitable treatment’ of UI Athletics employees, report says

The report on the external review of UI Athletics’ employment practices found no “inequitable treatment of applicants or employees on the basis of protected class.”


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The Old Capitol is shown on Monday, July 25, 2016.

Marissa Payne, Managing Editor

An external review of University of Iowa Athletics’ employment practices — ordered after the UI paid $6.5 million to settle discrimination lawsuits — reports finding no “inequitable treatment of applicants or employees on the basis of protected class.”

The Des Moines-based law firm conducting the review, Fredrikson & Byron P.A., interviewed 19 Athletics Department employees who self-reported being of a diverse group in terms of race, gender, and sexual orientation.

“Multiple employees expressed a desire for more diversity in the Athletics Department, but none had personally experienced harassment or discrimination on the basis of protected class in the course of their employment,” according to the report, dated Jan. 18.

In November 2017, the UI hired an independent firm to conduct the review of the university’s employment practices, starting with the Athletics Department.

That decision came after the UI paid $6.5 million to Jane Meyer, a former senior associate athletics director, and former coach Tracey Griesbaum, who had both filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against the university. The women alleged gender and sexual-orientation discrimination.

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The settlement, paid by the self-sustaining Athletics Department, covered the women’s lost wages, legal expenses, and emotional distress.

The employment-practices review is being paid for with general-fund money because it encompasses the entire university.

UI Athletics employs 231 people, including 84 women and 27 self-reported racial minorities, according to the report. The report noted Athletics “clearly understood” the importance of actively recruiting and retaining diverse candidates to positions in the department.

The report noted that in fiscal 2017, the UI hired more women and minority candidates than applied. That budget year, 18 coaches were hired, and women comprised 19 percent of applicants and 39 percent of hires. Racial minorities made up 22 percent of hires while they comprised 21 percent of the applicant pool.

In that same year, 20 administrative positions were filled, with women making up 32 percent of the applicant pool and 50 percent of hires, while racial minorities comprised 17 percent of the applicant pool and 20 percent of hires.

The law firm also reviewed Athletics’ salary-setting procedures by examining documentation of 86 employees through fiscal 2015-17, according to the report. Ultimately, the firm identified “some salary disparities between similar positions, but no pattern indicating disparities based on race, gender, or any other protected class.” Disparities the firm did find were “self-explanatory,” the report said, “usually based on the employee’s duties with a particular sport. Some sports are higher visibility, recruit and support more student-athletes, and involve upkeep of more equipment and facilities.”

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Despite that finding, the report recommended the department “consistently require documented reasons for a starting salary, even when it is within the median zone,” as well as “provide additional salary administration training to recruiters in the Athletics Department” to reinforce the information.

The university will review its academic and operational units and UI Health Care next.

“The review illustrates that the athletics department does a good job overall, with some areas for improvement,” Cheryl Reardon, UI chief human recourses officer and associate vice president, said in a statement. “The report and recommendations have been shared with Athletics Department leadership and all department recommendations have either been implemented or are in the process of being implemented in the near future.”