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Another Discrimination Lawsuit Against Fresno State Athletics

by Dan Waterhouse, Community Alliance News
Yet another gender discrimination lawsuit has been filed against Fresno State and its athletic department. The university lost or settled the other cases
A fourth gender discrimination lawsuit has been filed against California State University, Fresno stemming from alleged wrong-doing in the school’s athletic department.

The case was moved from state to federal court by the university at the end of October.

The plaintiff, Virginia Levesque, 57, was an administrative assistant in the men’s basketball office beginning in December 2000 under then-head coach Jerry Tarkanian. Tarkanian retired in 2002 and was replaced by now-disgraced head coach Ray Lopes. Levesque says she “continued as the administrative assistant after CSU replaced Tarkanian with Lopes.”

She says in the complaint that she and Lopes “had a contentious working relationship due to her regular complaints of inappropriate behavior by Coach Lopes, his staff, and his student athletes. This inappropriate behavior took the form of gender and age discrimination as well as potential violations of NCAA rules and CSU, Fresno policies.”

Levesque claims the discriminatory behavior and potential NCAA and CSU, Fresno policy violations included:

Coach Lopes firing her young male student assistant/manager, saying having a young female in that position “because it would be better for recruiting.”

Levesque says that under Tarkanian, she had been responsible for ensuring compliance by men’s basketball with NCAA rules. According to her, Lopes took those duties away from her.
Lopes was allowed to resign with a six figure settlement in 2005 after he was caught violating NCAA rules. During his tenure as head coach, Fresno police chief Jerry Dyer accused Lopes of interfering in a murder investigation involving his players, current and former.

Levesque says she warned Lopes that “actions by men’s basketball staff, including but not limited to, loaning student athletes their automobiles, was a potential violation of CSU, Fresno policies and NCAA rules and would need to be reviewed by the campus NCAA compliance officer.”

When she complained to Lopes that his student athletes were using her office as a changing room and speaking to her in a “disrespectful manner” she says Lopes did nothing. Levesque added “that she found magazines and a computer screensaver that depicted women in sexually revealing positions publicly displayed in the men’s basketball office.”

She says in the compliant that, through channels, she “prevented a men’s basketball staff member from running an advertisement to hire young women exclusively to help them recruit male players for the basketball team.

“After observing young women having closed door meetings with the men’s basketball staff,” Levesque says in the complaint, “she informed the clerical liaison that such private meetings were inappropriate and that the men’s basketball staff was attempting to use attractive young women for sexualized recruiting of male players. Additionally, she gave a men’s basketball assistant coach volunteer forms to fill out to comply with university volunteer procedures. After this the young women stopped coming to the office, and no forms were filled out.”

Levesque says that in response to her complaints, Lopes regularly retaliated against her. She claims that when Lopes had her office moved, her notepads, files, and phone message books were stolen from a locked cabinet. The note pads included notes she had taken on possible policy and rule violations in the men’s basketball office. She said she discovered that three student managers had thrown them away.

She says Lopes ordered her to stop making complaints to her superiors. When she refused, she said he became hostile towards her.

She was one of five administrative support staff laid off by the athletic department in January 2005. She claims university president Dr. John Welty and human resources director Jeannine Raymond told her she would be rehired to a permanent position. To date that has not occurred. She is also alleging age discrimination.

Levesque is represented by the East Bay law firm of Siegel and Yee. The firm represented former Fresno State women’s volleyball coach Lindy Vivas, former associate athletic director Diane Milutinovich, and was part of the legal team representing former women’s basketball coach Stacy Johnson-Klein in their successful discrimination lawsuits against the university.

The university legal team has denied all wrongdoing.
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