Athletic Director Fired Female Coach Over ‘Life Choice’ to be a Mother, Federal Agency Charged
NEW ORLEANS – Centenary College of Louisiana has agreed to pay $200,000 to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that the Shreveport college had demanded the resignation of its women’s intercollegiate basketball head coach and then fired her because she had had a child. The EEOC’s suit was resolved by a Consent Decree, which was signed by Judge Donald E. Walter on March 26, 2008 and entered into the record of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana on March 28, 2008.
According to the EEOC’s suit (No. 5:07CV-1561 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana), in September 2005 Elizabeth Wamsley gave birth to a child while unwed, and returned full time to her coaching duties 10 days later. After the conclusion of the team’s basketball season in March 2006, then-Athletic Director Taylor Moore told Wamsley that she should not continue coaching because she was now a mother. A month before her termination, Moore also reportedly told an assistant athletic director that his major concern with Wamsley was her “life choice” in deciding to have a baby and that he was concerned she would not be able to be 100% committed to her coaching duties as a result. Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Although the college denied wrongdoing, it agreed to pay Wamsley $200,000 in damages. The college also agreed to post a written policy concerning sex discrimination, and to have much of its staff undergo training on sex discrimination.
“This resolution, while of substantial benefit to Ms. Wamsley monetarily, also serves the public and the interests of the Centenary College community,” said Jim Sacher, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Houston. “The college’s agreement to post a written policy and undergo training will enhance its work force’s education and promote compliance with federal law. The EEOC stands committed to protecting the rights of mothers to work. Employers must understand that a mother’s right to earn a living is every bit as important, and as legally protected, as a father’s. As this suit has shown, when necessary, the EEOC will prosecute employers who fail to uphold the federal law’s requirement that women be treated the same as men at work.”
Wamsley was hired as an assistant coach of Centenary’s women’s intercollegiate basketball team in 2003. She was selected as its interim head coach in April 2004, and subsequently served as head coach for two seasons.
In May of 2007, the EEOC issued its “Enforcement Guidance: Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities,” discussing sex discrimination and related issues for child caregivers. That guidance can be found on the internet at: http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/caregiving.html .
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov .
Anyone who believes he or she has been subjected to a discriminatory employment practice is encouraged to contact the EEOC's New Orleans Field Office, which is located at 1555 Poydras Street, Suite 1900 in New Orleans.