A former Oregon State University assistant wrestling coach who was fired in August after a student complained of offensive statements made by teammates has sued the school for allegedly violating his right to due process, court records show.
The university terminated Kevin Roberts on Aug. 23 over the allegation that he allowed teammates to make derogatory statements toward a student, according to a complaint filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Eugene.
Roberts, through his attorney, Portland lawyer Micah Fargey, claims he wasn’t given the opportunity to contest the allegation and that the university breached his employment contract and owes him the remainder of his annual salary, the complaint states.
Roberts had been the assistant wrestling coach at OSU since 2006, according to the complaint.
The complaint states that in the spring of 2017, a student complained to administrators that his teammates had made statements that were “derogatory towards his race and/or religion.”
Administrators “apparently concluded that [Roberts] had either participated in the offensive banter among the students or neglected his supervisory role over the students,” the complaint states.
Roberts asserts the university violated his constitutional right to due process by not allowing him to respond to the allegations of wrongdoing, according to the complaint.
In the complaint, Roberts also contends OSU breached his employment contract. On July 1, Roberts signed a new contract to remain as assistant wrestling coach until June 30, 2018, for an annual salary of $108,000, the complaint states.
Roberts continued to work throughout July and August, traveling across the country to recruit students for the wrestling team, according to the complaint. He also forewent other employment opportunities because he believed he would remain employed by the university, the complaint states.
According to the complaint, the university described the termination of Roberts as “without cause.” Roberts’ contract with the university stated OSU had the right to terminate the employee without cause, but it would be obligated to pay the terminated employee the remaining compensation under the agreement, the complaint states.
Ergo, Roberts is asking for $18,000 in lost wages, an amount that continues to accrue at a rate of $9,000 per month, according to the complaint.
Roberts is asking for an additional $108,000 in damages for the breach of contract.
Also named as defendants in the complaint are Athletic Director Scott Barnes and Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Susan Capalbo. Roberts states in his complaint that Barnes and Capalbo should also be assessed damages “to punish them and to deter them and others from similar conduct in the future.” Roberts asks for a jury trial to determine the amount of damages.
Steve Clark, OSU’s vice president of university relations and marketing, said he could not comment on pending litigation against the school.
Clark said the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Access is “committed to thoroughly investigate all such complaints of discrimination."
“We do that on behalf of all students, faculty and staff, and in doing so we ensure due process for all involved parties,” Clark said.