2 women cry 'foul' in lawsuit against Slippery Rock University

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Slippery Rock University's longtime women's volleyball coach and an assistant to the athletic director filed a lawsuit Friday claiming they were victims of retaliation after they spoke against athletic director Paul Lueken.

Volleyball coach Laurie Lokash has been told that her contract will be allowed to expire in 2013, according to the complaint in U.S. District Court. Assistant to the athletic director Pearl Shaffer, who also is the athletic business manager, has been given "massive amounts of work" and kept out of important meetings and denied adequate support, the complaint said.

Deteriorating relations between the two women and Mr. Lueken started in 2006, the complaint said, after 12 female student-athletes and another coach, represented by the Women's Law Project, sued the university for violating Title IX.

That law requires equal opportunity for women's sports in colleges and universities receiving federal funding. The university eventually agreed to a settlement pledging, among other things, that there would be no retaliation stemming from the lawsuit.

The complaint said Ms. Lokash and Ms. Shaffer testified, in interviews conducted to monitor the consent order in the case, that Mr. Lueken had difficulty dealing with strong women. He later made several statements indicating that he viewed their statements as "disloyal," the complaint said. They then got unfavorable job reviews and hostile treatment from Mr. Lueken, it said.

"We think it undermines the whole purpose of Title IX if a prominent organization like the Women's Law Project can bring a successful suit, and in the wake of it have all of these problems," said attorney John Stember, who represents the two women.

The university and the State System of Higher Education were named as defendants in the lawsuit. Mr. Lueken is not a defendant.

For Ms. Lokash, 50, of Harrisville, it was "from the volleyball hall of fame to goodbye," said Mr. Stember, referring to her 2002 induction into the Pennsylvania Coaches Association Volleyball Hall of Fame. "Her decision on whether to stay or depart from Slippery Rock, she wants that to be her decision, not Lueken's decision based on what happened," Mr. Stember said.

Ms. Shaffer, 58, of Slippery Rock, wants her chain of command to be changed so she does not report to Mr. Lueken, said Mr. Stember, and monetary damages are also sought.

Slippery Rock spokesman Karl Schwab said the university had not yet seen the complaint and could not comment. Mr. Lueken could not be reached for comment.


Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542


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