FMJ and Siegel, Yee & Brunner Win $3.74 Million Award for Ex-UMD Hockey Coach Shannon Miller in Discrimination Suit

March 2018

FMJ trial lawyers Donald Chance Mark, Jr., Sharon Van Dyck, and Andrew James, along with co-counsel Dan Siegel and Jane Brunner of Siegel, Yee & Brunner, won a $3.74 million award in a discrimination suit on behalf of their client Shannon Miller, the highly-successful women’s University of Minnesota Duluth hockey (UMD) coach whose contract was not renewed following the 2014 – 2015 season.

UMD claimed the nonrenewal was for financial reasons and later claimed her termination was based on a decline in her performance. Miller alleged there was a pattern of discrimination by UMD based on her sex, as well as retaliation for Miller’s repeated and emphatic calls for gender equality in the UMD athletics department under Title IX. The twelve-person federal jury in Duluth sided with Miller on Thursday, March 15 on both the claim of sex discrimination and Title IX claims with a unanimous verdict.

Miller’s discrimination claim based on her sexual orientation was dismissed by Judge Patrick Schiltz of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota prior to trial because the Eighth Circuit does not yet recognize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Donald Chance Mark, Jr. and Dan Siegel will be part of the team representing Shannon in her upcoming sexual orientation bias lawsuit in state court and the case will be brought alongside claims by Jen Bandford (the former UMD director of women’s hockey operations and head softball coach) and Annette Wiles (the former head women’s basketball coach). All women allege a pattern of discrimination by UMD and its administrators based on their sexual orientation.

Mark acknowledges that while Shannon and her legal team are incredibly happy with the award, the case meant much more than that for women.

“It’s important that women have an absolute right to expect and demand compliance with federal law, which is that women be treated equally. Shannon stood for all of those things and this jury agreed with that,” he said. “This verdict is an encouragement for young women to stand up for how they should be treated.”