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Published July 21, 2024

Former golf coach sues U for discrimination

Katie Brenny alleges that her role was diminished because she is gay.

Attorneys for former womenâÄôs golf coach Katie Brenny, who resigned this fall after just two months on the job, served the University of Minnesota with a lawsuit Wednesday, alleging that Director of Golf John Harris kept her from coaching duties after discovering she was gay.

The Minnesota Daily reported in December that Brenny didnâÄôt travel to any of the womenâÄôs away matches this fall and wasnâÄôt allowed to discuss golf with players in her brief tenure. HarrisâÄô son-in-law and former caddie, Ernie Rose, acted as the womenâÄôs head coach but wasnâÄôt eligible for the title because he doesnâÄôt have a bachelorâÄôs degree.

The 14-page complaint, filed in Hennepin County District Court, alleges that Harris factored sexual orientation into his search for a new associate womenâÄôs head coach and offered the job to Brenny without knowing she was homosexual. It charges the University with counts of discrimination, retaliation and sexual harassment based on sexual orientation.

It also charges Harris individually with interfering with BrennyâÄôs contract, and the four charges each seek damages in excess of $50,000.

University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg, who told the Daily last month he hoped to settle the case without litigation, said in a statement that âÄúthe University of Minnesota strongly contests both the factual foundation and legal basis of the claims asserted in this lawsuit.âÄù

Harris offered Brenny the job in July and the job description listed by the University included the responsibility to âÄúassist in selection, supervision, and coaching of the team toward a positive experience and athletic excellence,âÄù according to the suit.

But shortly after hiring Brenny, the suit alleges, Harris found out about her sexual orientation and subsequently disallowed her from performing many of the job duties. As the Daily reported in December, Harris kept Brenny from speaking to players about golf. When Brenny asked what she could discuss, the suit claims, Harris replied, âÄúBoys, life and school.âÄù

In September, Brenny twice met with Harris, Senior Associate Athletics Director Elizabeth Eull and Associate Athletic Director David Crum to talk about her vague job. They, according to the suit, informed Brenny that they were changing her job description and that the new description entailed mostly housekeeping tasks.

The suit alleges continued mistreatment after these meetings, which is the basis for the retaliation charge. Brenny met with Athletics Director Joel Maturi in mid-October, according to the suit, and aired her complains. According to the suit, Maturi replied that âÄúher choices were to either quit or comply with HarrisâÄô demands.âÄù

Brenny left the program in October after the University offered to transfer her to a sales position at TCF Bank Stadium, just days after Maturi offered her a severance package. Later that week she accepted a separation agreement with the University, according to the complaint. Brenny then rescinded the separation agreement during the 15-day legal grace period to do so. The University indicated it wouldnâÄôt renew her contract and would assign her to the sales position, prompting the suit.

To read the full text of the lawsuit, click here

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