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Settlement Reached in Tennessee Discrimination Lawsuit

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. ― Former Tennessee associate director of sports medicine Jenny Moshak and two ex-Lady Volunteers strength coaches have settled a gender discrimination and retaliation lawsuit they filed against the university in the fall of 2012.

The university said Monday it had reached a $750,000 settlement with Moshak, Heather Mason and Collin Schlosser plus “attorneys’ fees to be determined by the court.” Keith Stewart and Lisa Banks, lawyers representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement that the total settlement including attorneys’ fees “will be in excess of $1 million.”

“The resolution of this matter stands as a testament to the importance of equality for women in sports and those working with women in sports,” Stewart and Banks said in a statement. “This settlement sends a clear message to collegiate decision-makers nationwide that disparity in pay, opportunity, funding, participation or otherwise is unacceptable in this day and time.”

School officials said Monday that “the university unequivocally denies that any of the three former employees suffered any discrimination or retaliation.”

Moshak, Mason and Schlosser said they received less compensation than employees holding similar positions and performing comparable tasks for men’s teams. The plaintiffs said the discrepancy resulted from their gender or their affiliation with women’s teams.

In the suit they filed in October 2012, the plaintiffs said the university “has created a testosterone wall effectively prohibiting women from earning equal pay and further denying plaintiffs the opportunity to advance their careers by working in men’s athletics at the University of Tennessee.”

The case was scheduled to go to trial April 19, though that date had been pushed back several times.

The terms of the settlement agreement state that it shouldn’t be considered an admission of liability. Although school officials denied any discrimination or retaliation took place, they said in a release that “the university believed that settling this matter at this time was in the best long-term interest of the university.”

Vice chancellor Margie Nichols said the school would have no additional comment.

Under terms of the settlement, Moshak will receive $345,000, Mason will get $277,500 and Schlosser will receive $127,500. School officials say the money will be paid entirely from athletic department revenues and won’t include any state tax funds, student tuition dollars or donor gifts.

None of the three plaintiffs remains at the university.

In the suit, the plaintiffs said Schlosser lost his job and that Moshak and Mason were demoted and had their staff reduced after each of them filed a discrimination complaint.

Mason was fired as the associate strength coach of the women’s basketball team after the 2012-13 season, with Tennessee officials citing unsatisfactory job performance as the reason. Moshak took early retirement in 2013 and said at the time that “given the university’s unwillingness to address the issues of discrimination and retaliation, I cannot continue my association with the university’s athletic department.”

This was one of two gender discrimination lawsuits filed against the school in 2012 as the school adjusted to the consolidation of its men’s and women’s athletic departments. Former Lady Vols media director Debby Jennings sued the university as well as athletic director Dave Hart while arguing that age and sex discrimination led to her forced retirement from the school where she had worked for 35 years.

Jennings and the school reached a $320,000 settlement in October 2014.

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