It seems that every day, stories of hazing or sexual crimes in this country's schools are making national news. While students in West Virginia and across the country are expected to be held responsible, school administrators are also coming under fire for the handling of the incidents. Because of this, the fact that one coach was fired unjustly after reporting hazing on the team he coached seems especially shocking. The diocese which employed, and then fired, the coach recently agreed to settle his lawsuit for $4 million.
The plaintiff in the case was a coach at the high school in the fall of 2012. Reports indicate that, just before the school dismissed for winter break, he discovered that some of the students on the team were conducting activities related to hazing. At that time, he claims he reported the behavior to school authorities.
When school was back in session, the school said it conducted an investigation into the allegations. As part of that investigation, several students were expelled, and the coach was fired. A press release was also issued, placing the blame for the hazing on the coach.
In his lawsuit, the plaintiff claimed that he was a victim of defamation, wrongful termination and retaliation. A jury agreed with his claims and recently awarded him $900, 000 in compensatory damages. Before it could convene to deliberate on punitive damages, the diocese offered the man a $4 million settlement. As part of the settlement, the diocese agreed that it will not appeal the case.
While there are legitimate reasons to terminate a person's position, firing someone because they reported what could potentially be dangerous and even illegal behavior by others is not legitimate. Unfortunately, many people in West Virginia have found themselves retaliated against and fired unjustly. By taking their case to a civil court and successfully presenting their claim, they could be awarded damages to help with the financial consequences of their experience while potentially protecting future employees from similar treatment.
Source: sacbee.com, "Forewoman: Whistleblowing coach 'lucky' to get $4 million from diocese in sex-hazing case", Andy Furillo, March 12, 2015