Posts Tagged ‘Basketball’

Several weeks ago, in the case of Covington v. Int’l Ass’n of Approved Basketball Officials, the Third Circuit held that a female high school basketball referee in New Jersey may pursue a Title VII sex discrimination claim against three defendants related to her alleged exclusion from officiating boys’ basketball games.

In short, the female referee sued seven defendants in federal court, including Hamilton Township School District, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), and Board 193 of the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials, alleging that the defendants engaged in unlawful sex discrimination by excluding her from officiating boys’ high school varsity basketball games.   Although she had refereed for more than 10 years, the referee claimed that she had not been assigned to officiate boys’ regular season games because of Board 193’s policy of discriminating against female officials.  Although no defendant admitted to having a policy of excluding women from officiating boys’ games, the referee alleged a pattern and practice of sex discrimination

The U.S. District Court of the District of New Jersey dismissed the referee’s complaint on the ground that she had not adequately alleged facts sufficient to establish the employer-employee relationship necessary to hold any of the named defendants liable under Title VII.  The referee appealed this dismissal to the Third Circuit where the Third Circuit reversed the lower court’s decision and chastised it for not giving more serious regard to a federal district court opinion in Pennsylvania that had upheld a sex discrimination jury verdict for a female basketball referee who had been excluded from officiating boys’ games under similar circumstances.  In other words, there was existing case law that the lower court should have paid closer attention to.

Interestingly, the defendants unsuccessfully argued that they were not covered by Title VII on the theory that they could not be considered employers.  The Third Circuit rejected this argument finding that the school district and the athletic association could be fairly identified as the referee’s employers under Title VII.  The court also found that the referee plausibly alleged that Board 193 could be liable as an “employment agency” for supplying high school basketball referees to the school district.

This article is authored by attorney Shannon O. Young and is intended for educational purposes and to give you general information and a general understanding of the law only, not to provide specific legal advice. Any particular questions should be directed to your legal counsel or, if you do not have one, please feel free to contact us.

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