Beth Burns Wrongful Termination Suit

Case title: Burns v. Board of Trustees of the California State University

Case type: Employment Discrimination, Wrongful Termination, Retaliation

Filed in: [San Diego County Superior Court]

Docket: [Case no.: 37-2014-00003408-CU-CO-CTL]

Case Summary

In 2014, Sanford Heisler Sharp and the Patterson Law Group filed a wrongful termination lawsuit on behalf of Beth Burns, the winningest coach in San Diego State University (SDSU) women’s basketball history, against the university and its board of trustees.

The Complaint alleged that in 2013, with four years and $880,000 remaining on a five-year contract, Burns was abruptly fired during what was purportedly her annual season review after a 27-win season and a first-place finish in the Mountain West Conference. According to the Complaint, at the meeting, Burns was told by the school’s then-athletic director, Jim Sterk, that she could either resign, retire or be fired.

The Complaint alleged that SDSU used the pretext of a video showing Burns having incidental physical contact with a male assistant coach for the Aztecs during the heat of a home game, saying her actions in the video were “the sole cause” of her firing. But Burns was being terminated as coach because of her complaints about the lack of gender equity between the male and female athletic programs at the university, and her refusal to give up the fight, the Complaint alleged.

By retaliating against Burns with termination for her persistent efforts to achieve gender equity in college athletics, the institution and the board of trustees violated the California Whistleblower Protection Act and subjected Burns to gender-based discrimination, in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Complaint alleged.

In September 2016, after a monthlong trial, a California Superior Court jury awarded Burns $3,356,250 in damages.

News Coverage