Five former University of Louisiana at Lafayette softball players are asking to join a 2018 lawsuit their former coach filed against the university and its representatives.
Chelsea Lotief, Doni Sanders, Miranda Grotenhuis, Sarah Koeppen and Teryn Haley Pritchett in January filed a request in federal court to join the 2018 lawsuit filed by long-time Ragin' Cajuns softball coach Michael Lotief. A judge has not ruled on the request, Lotief's lead attorney, John McElligott Jr. of Lafayette, said Monday.
UL officials fired Lotief on Nov. 1, 2017, alleging complaints from students and staff about "violent, vulgar language and verbal and physical assault, creating a hostile learning and working environment." Officially, the university said Lotief violated university system policies.
During a 2017 news conference, Lotief, surrounded by tearful softball players, said he was fired in retaliation for passionately complaining about gender inequality in the UL athletics department. They also alleged the student complaints against Lotief were coerced.
Lotief filed a lawsuit in 19th Judicial District Court in East Baton Rouge Parish in September 2018 alleging his firing was in retaliation over Title IX gender inequality complaints, and alleging defamation, discrimination because of physical disabilities and more. The UL Board of Supervisors, UL System/UL Lafayette, UL President E. Joseph Savoie, Athletic Director Bryan Maggard and Deputy Athletic Director Jessica Clarke Leger were named defendants.
On Nov. 1, the case was moved, at the request of defendants, to federal court in Baton Rouge. By Nov. 26, the university and other defendants filed a motion to move the case to federal court in Lafayette. The judge hasn't ruled on the motion, McElligott said.
The five former softball players on Jan. 3 filed a motion to intervene in Lotief's lawsuit. The university and other defendants are opposing the request.
The women in their intervention complaint allege as students and softball players at UL they suffered "inequities and discrimination" based on gender in violation of Title IX. The document alleges UL "refused to provide equal and adequate medical treatment and competent care" to female softball players as compared with male athletes; did not provide adequate and equitable playing facilities; limited softball players' access to indoor practice facilities and indoor hitting cages; "refused" to provide equitable administrative office space or to hire and retain a trainer for women's softball since May 2017 despite NCAA requirements; expected Lotief to perform grounds maintenance; did not provide softball players with equal access to the weight room, physical assessments and nutritional supplemental drinks after workouts were provided to male athletes; and ignored softball players' complaints about possible Title IX violations.
The legal document further alleges Lotief's replacement and UL officials "began a pattern of systematic retaliation" against the softball players who complained of gender bias and filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights.
Nine former UL softball players in September filed discrimination complaints against the university through the U.S. Department of Education.
The five seeking to join Lotief's lawsuit alleged the university and its representatives caused them mental anguish, embarrassment, humiliation and emotional distress; physical pain and suffering; past and future medical costs; loss of enjoyment of life; and loss of earnings.
In a motion the Board of Supervisors of the UL System, UL and the other defendants, oppose the women's motion to join the lawsuit.