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Wrongful termination scores $329,000 for Sonoma State coach

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Firing,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers

A California jury has awarded more than $300,000 to a former Sonoma State University softball coach who claimed that she was wrongfully fired. The California Superior Court, Sonoma County, jury ordered the university to pay Chris Elze $179,192 in economic damages, $37,876 for future economic loss and $112,000 in non-economic damages.

Sonoma State argued that Elze was fired after the athletic director investigated charges that team members were drinking alcohol and eating marijuana brownies on a bus trip.

According to a university spokesman, “The fact that Ms. Elze’s contract was not renewed after her suspen-
sion was based on many factors, including four consecutive losing seasons and complaints from student-athletes about her leadership and professional abilities.”

According to Elze, however, the university had dealt less harshly with male coaches whose students were accused of drinking. Specifically, she alleged disparate treatment under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act in her suspension and dismissal.

Final note: Apparently the jury believed Ms. Elze’s account and her allegations of harsher treatment. Remember, if you have rules, you must enforce them fairly and in a nondiscriminatory way.

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