Trev Kiser, a former women’s basketball coach at Clark College who had sued the school alleging wrongful termination, was awarded $545,000 Thursday by a jury in Thurston County.
“It was a good verdict today,” Kiser said, before referring questions to his lawyer.
Kiser coached at Clark from fall 1997 through March 2002. According to the lawsuit, “Clark College terminated Kiser because he took action promoting compliance with and expressing concern regarding non-compliance with Title IX.”
Lawyer Jean Huffington of Seattle-based McKay Huffington & Tyler said: “The college said he had engaged in misconduct, as far as per diem reimbursements and expenses.
“In my view, the jury concluded that Clark College made such a rush to judgment that Trev did something wrong that there must have been more to it.”
Kiser initially filed suit in 2005, beginning an elongated process that led to Thursday’s verdict. According to Huffington, the suit initially was dismissed, then was reinstated by the Washington State Court of Appeals and was returned to the Superior Court for Thurston County.
Because Clark College is a state institution, plaintiffs may file suit against the school either in Clark County or Thurston County, which includes the state capital of Olympia.
Huffington broke down the verdict like this: $180,000 for back pay, from the time of the firing to the beginning of the trial; $150,000 for future pay, which was hampered by the firing; and $215,000 for emotional distress.
In addition, Judge Paula Casey will determine and award attorney’s fees to Kiser, adding to the total damages.
Clark College president Bob Knight said: “I would just have to say we are disappointed in the verdict. Clark College is reviewing our options. It would be inappropriate to comment further.”
Knight added that the payment, if it stands, will come out of Clark’s operational funds.
Knight was not employed by Clark College at the time that Kiser was fired. Of the three Clark employees who played a role in the firing according to the lawsuit, none of them have remained at Clark.
While Kiser claimed that the firing came after he questioned the college’s Title IX compliance, the lawsuit did not address the issue of that compliance. Title IX is a federal law that deals in part with gender equity for men’s and women’s athletic teams at institutions that receive federal money.
“It is in no way a finding that anybody violated it,” Huffington said of the Title IX questions. “It’s about laws that govern employment. If it’s a verdict on anything, it’s a verdict on personnel issues. ”