A former dance team coach who filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against Wisconsin’s Marshfield High School, had her day in court before a Department of Workforce Development judge on March 2. The coach, who has since moved to California, was fired from her position as a dance coach at the high school after her team performed a routine to ‘Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke during a football halftime show.
The coach contends that gender discrimination played a role in her dismissal, alleging that male coaches who allowed music with questionable lyrics during warm-ups and male teachers who played such music during classes were not fired. She was brought on as coach to try to revitalize the dance program, and under her leadership the team doubled in size and received praise for its improved performances. Believing that the team needed to build its reputation by working with popular songs, she allowed the members to select ‘Blurred Lines” and choreograph a routine with the song.
When the students selected the song, she reviewed the lyrics and removed the third verse, which she considered objectionable, as well as another word in an earlier verse. Although the routine was successful and received compliments from the athletic director, a parent’s complaint about the song led administrators to investigate further. They ultimately chose to terminate the coach based on concerns about her judgment.
A case like this highlights some of the challenges for a plaintiff in making a successful case for workplace discrimination based on gender. Courts are increasingly requiring a heavier burden of proof on the part of plaintiffs, but an attorney can be helpful to a plaintiff considering filing an action by helping to amass information that might indicate a pattern of discrimination.
Source: USA Today, “Judge hears ‘Blurred Lines’ discrimination arguments,” Karen Madden, March 2, 2015