Two University of Tennessee athletic department employees and a former employee of the women's athletic department have filed a lawsuit against the university in U.S. District Court, alleging discrimination and retaliation.
Jenny Moshak, the associate director of sports medicine for women's basketball, and Heather Mason, the associate strength and conditioning coach for women's basketball and soccer, are the two UT employees behind the complaint. The third plaintiff is the lone male in the suit — Collin Schlosser, a former Lady Vols associate director for strength and conditioning who was laid off in April.
The suit, which was filed Thursday by attorneys Keith D. Stewart and Stacey C. Sisco, alleges that the university has created "a testosterone wall" effectively prohibiting women from earning equal pay and "further denying Plaintiffs the opportunity to advance their careers by working in men's athletics at the University of Tennessee."
The suit also alleges that the university has allowed "a pattern and practice of gender discrimination to develop which indicates a lack of institutional control."
Debby Jennings, the former Lady Vols associate athletics director for media relations, filed a separate suit last month against the university and athletic director Dave Hart, alleging "unlawful discrimination and retaliation."
Neither Stewart nor Sisco could be reached for comment. A response from a UT official could not be obtained either.
Moshak, Mason and Schlosser originally filed a discrimination complaint in February of 2010 with UT's Office of Equity and Diversity in which they each compared their salary to an employee from men's athletics, whose primary responsibilities centered around football. The claim, which twice was rejected by the university, was taken to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In the 2010 complaint, Moshak drew parallels to Jason McVeigh, then UT's director of men's sports medicine. At that time, Moshak earned a base salary of $87,500 at a pay grade of 46, but received a raise to $90,993 after the first phase of converging the athletic departments. McVeigh, at a pay grade of 45, made a base salary at
that time of $89,048.
According to salary figures obtained in June by the News Sentinel, McVeigh is making $110,000 as the director of sports medicine-football while Moshak makes $100,000.
In the original complaint, Mason compared her position to four men who had held the title of men's director of strength and conditioning in the three previous years. All made at least $20,000 more than Mason's salary of $80,000 at the time of the complaint.
Ron McKeefery, director of strength and conditioning coach for football, currently makes $240,000 while Mason makes $100,000.
The OED dismissed Schlosser's complaint because he could not show "an employee of the opposite sex earning more compensation for a job that is substantially equal."
In its defense, the men's athletic department argued that when it comes to a top-revenue, athlete-heavy sport like football, it's hard to come up with a fair comparison.
The OED agreed, ruling 10 months later that no gender discrimination occurred. Chancellor Jimmy Cheek signed off on the decision and, upon appeal by the trio, so did UT president Joe DePietro in April of 2011.
Thursday's suit alleges that the university retaliated against Moshak by demoting her from her previous title of associate athletics director for sports medicine and reducing her supervisory authority. The suit says Moshak previously supervised sports medicine/athletic training for all women's sports. It also noted McVeigh's promotion to his aforementioned title.
The suit alleges comparable retaliation against Mason, saying she previously was the assistant athletics director for strength and conditioning, who supervised all women's sports.
Regarding Schlosser, the suit alleges that he was fired as part of a "reduction in force."
The suit requests a trial by jury and seeks equal compensation, monetary damages and a permanent injunction prohibiting the university from "engaging in discrimination based on the sex of the employee or the program with which the employee is affiliated."