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Student Athlete Will Be Permitted to Pursue Sexual Harassment Claim Against UC Berkeley

Hardin Law Group

In the last several years, countless allegations of sexual harassment and abuse have been made by students and others who participated in collegiate or even high school sports. The rise of the #metoo movement allowed victims of sexual abuse and harassment to come forward with more confidence that their claims will be addressed. A California student-athlete recently enjoyed a legal victory in the state Court of Appeals, where her sexual harassment claim of sexual harassment against the University of California at Berkeley survived an initial unfavorable ruling at the trial court.

The Facts of the Case

According to the facts discussed in the recent appellate opinion, the plaintiff accepted a position to play soccer at UC Berkeley based on assurances by the coach that she would be permitted to play on the team for four years. The plaintiff declined competing scholarship offers in order to accept her position at UC Berkeley. Despite her strong performance and positive contributions to the team, she experienced and witnessed The coach’s abusive behavior throughout the 2018-2019 season. His outbursts, berating, and psychological torment created a culture of fear and intimidation, leading players to tread lightly to avoid his anger.

Despite complaints from players and parents, UCB’s athletic administration ignored the concerns and allowed McGuire’s ill-treatment to persist. In April 2019, without warning, the coach released the plaintiff and four others from the team, a rare occurrence that coincided with the exposure of the national admissions scandal. According to the State Auditor of California’s 2020 report further highlighted UCB’s wrongful admissions practices. The plaintiff and other athletes endured extreme despair due to the administration’s disregard for their complaints, allowing McGuire’s mistreatment to continue.

The Court’s Ruling

The plaintiff filed a suit against the University, alleging that her dismissal from the team was a result of sexual harassment and retaliation for her complaints of harassment and abuse. Based on procedural deficiencies, the California state court dismissed her claim. The plaintiff appealed the ruling to the Court of Appeals, where the court ruled that she should have been permitted to amend her complaint to cure the procedural defects and proceed toward a ruling on the merits of her claim. As a result of the appellate ruling, the plaintiff’s case will proceed to a trial.

The Takeaway

Because sexual assault victims have historically had trouble coming forward with allegations of abuse, the California legislature recently passed laws that extend the statute of limitations for filing civil sexual assault and abuse claims for abuse that occurred between 2009 and 2019. Under the new law, victims have ten years from the date of the abuse or three years from the discovery of the abuse to pursue a civil claim for damages. Any sexual abuse or assault victim should seek legal counsel to determine if a claim for damages is appropriate.

Have You Experienced Workplace Discrimination or Harassment?

If you have been victimized by sexual abuse or assault in the workplace or on campus, you may have a claim for damages. Similarly,iIf you have been retaliated against in any way for making a claim of abuse, you may be entitled to a separate cause of action based on the retaliation. If you were fired or dismissed from a position and believe that it was unlawful due to a violation of public policy or law, then contact our experienced employment attorneys at Hardin Law Group to learn what legal action can be taken today. Contact us at (949) 337-4810 or reach out through our online form to schedule a free consultation.

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