Ex-Softball Coach Sues FDU; Alleges Termination Based on Bisexuality
On November 7, 2016, Fairleigh Dickinson University’s (FDU) former softball coach, Katherine Kelley, sued the university in New Jersey state court for alleged discrimination against her for being bisexual, and that she was fired for speaking out against bullies on the team. Kelley is seeking compensatory damages for pain, suffering and emotional distress for the university’s actions against her, and alleged FDU violated New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act and Law Against Discrimination, as well as breached her employment contract. Kelley also claimed FDU did not follow its own policies and procedures for harassment and discrimination complaints.
Kelley alleged that the issues that eventually led to her termination began shortly after she became the Division I softball coach in November 2015. She stated FDU employees clearly perceived her as bisexual or homosexual. Then, in September 2016 she had a meeting with the human resources vice president, Rose D’Ambrosio, who had been informed of Kelley’s personal relationship with her graduate student, Allison Brown. Kelley claimed the human resources representative asked if she lived with Brown and advised Kelley needed to tell her supervisors if she was having a sexual relationship with the assistant. After that meeting, Kelley “began to feel intimidated by several FDU employees and felt as if certain FDU employees acted as watch dogs to monitor her.” Kelley also alleged that her and Brown were followed in March by a black Dodge charger, and that Kelley was spied on by the head of FDU campus security outside of her home, which is 42 minutes from the campus.
Around the same time as the alleged following, Kelley was alerted by the Title IX officer, Stephanie Miller, that there were complaints accusing Kelley of harassment. However, the identities of the players were not revealed to her. Then in May, Kelley met with her superiors to discuss claims that two players violated university policies and New Jersey law by bullying younger teammates. Kelley asserted that she had previously discussed the same two players’ behavior back in 2015, and that in May her superiors approved revoking the players’ scholarships and kicking them off the team. The two players were promptly told they were off the team. But then on May 10, Miller informed Kelley that the players felt Kelley’s actions were retaliatory. Kelley claimed a few weeks after that, she learned for the first time that those two players were the same ones who filed the Title IX complaints against her. Kelley stated her confusion about Miller’s information of alleged retaliation made it clear that Kelley never knew who the students were that filed complaints against her. However, D’Ambrosio used this alleged retaliatory action against the two players as the reason for firing Kelley in July. Kelley instead alleged that her termination was the final act of years of discrimination she faced at FDU.