Many labor and employment cases will be decided based on whether the plaintiff can show some kind of discriminatory motive for poor treatment or a job loss. 

A discrimination lawsuit related to the troubled University of Louisiana at Lafayette football program was moved to the state’s appellate court system after the trial decision was contested. 

Local university football coach files discrimination lawsuit

The underlying facts that gave rise to the lawsuit deal with possible racial discrimination against former head football coach Jerry Baldwin who was hired in 2001 as the university’s first black coach. Over the next three seasons, the football program at Lafayette saw a losing record, declining attendance at games, and lost revenue for the program. Baldwin was initially given a four year contract, but the university terminated his position at the end of his third season, even though he was still paid for the fourth. 

The athletics department claims that these were the neutral reasons why he was terminated from the position, but Baldwin and his attorney claimed that these were only a pretext for racial discrimination. The trial court had initially made a finding that the plaintiff failed to prove that a discriminatory motive was the true reason for Baldwin’s firing. A three judge panel for the district court of appeal reviewed the decision later and agreed with the trial court. They said that the lower court’s finding was supported by the record in evidence and they would affirm the ruling. Among the most important findings at the trial level were the program’s 6-27 record in three seasons and a serious loss of income that could have ended the university’s football program during Baldwin’s tenure. The court agreed with the defendant that these were the true reasons for his firing and no errors of law or procedure were made by the trial court. 

Baldwin’s attorney, who is a former football player, stated that they will decide whether to end the lawsuit based on this ruling, or to appeal again to the Louisiana Supreme Court. His main argument is not that various university administrators are racist, but that they illegally used race as a factor in the employment decision. He also believes that the university attempted to cover these reasons up afterward. The appeals court disagreed and said that no evidence in the record showed any kind of racist or discriminatory behavior other than accusations that came directly from Baldwin. 

Throughout the long history of this lawsuit, a jury had actually decided in favor of Baldwin in 2007, but that verdict was thrown out due to procedural errors and improper expert testimony. 

Proving a discrimination case in the court system

As this article shows, discrimination lawsuits are always very fact intensive. It is important for the plaintiff to be able to provide strong evidence of discrimination that was an actual motive for some kind of negative action taken against an employee. This is often done by showing specific decisions that affected the plaintiff which were made based on protected characteristics like race, religion, gender, or national origin.  

Get help from a local employment attorney

There are lawyers in the state of Louisiana who assist victims of discrimination and workplace harassment. Miller, Hampton, and Hilgendorf are available to help.

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