The dismissal of a lesbian hockey coach at the University of Minnesota Duluth has sparked another lawsuit by a woman who says she was forced out for speaking against it.
Angie Nichols, the former director of the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Services Office, is suing the Board of Regents, claiming the school retaliated against her through months of discrimination based on her sexual orientation and disability.
Nichols says it all started in December 2014 after she raised concerns about UMD’s decision to not renew the contracts of women’s hockey coach Shannon Miller and two assistant coaches, along with women’s hockey director of operations Jen Banford, all of whom identify as gay or bisexual, the Duluth News Tribune reports.
It’s a recurring theme surrounding athletics at UMD, which was already facing a lawsuit from Miller, Banford and former women’s basketball coach Annette Wiles. They say the school discriminated against them on the basis of age, gender, sexual orientation and national origin.
Nichols met with UMD Chancellor Lendley Black following the nonrenewal of Miller’s contract in December 2014 to tell him that the university had terminated four people who identified as gay and to explain that the action “could result in liability for UMD” under the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
In media coverage of the contract nonrenewal, Nichols expressed concern about UMD’s decision. She also attended a demonstration to protest the contract nonrenewals held by UMD’s Queer and Allied Student Union, a student group that she advised, despite a warning from Susana Pelayo-Woodward, director of the Office of Cultural Diversity, that Vice Chancellor of Student Life Lisa Erwin would consider the attendance of any of Pelayo-Woodward’s employees at the demonstration “insubordination.”
In February 2015, UMD was suspended from the national group Campus Pride’s annual listing of LGBT-friendly schools because of the university’s handling of the coaches’ contracts; Nichols was quoted in the media coverage of the suspension.
Following the media coverage, Nichols claims she began to notice that UMD faculty and staff were bypassing her and not consulting her on LGBT campus issues that were within her job responsibilities. That included not being consulted as UMD’s Campus Pride administrator nor invited to a February 2015 meeting of UMD’s Crisis Response Team and Public Relations on the suspension of the university from the Campus Pride listing.
Nichols, a veteran, says her PTSD was inflamed by the hostile work environment.
A spokesperson for UMD says the school will contest the allegations.