Johnson-Klein wins big

Stacy Johnson-Klein smiles shortly after being fired as the Fresno State women’s basketball coach in March 2005. She is flanked by her husband, Chuck Klein (left) and her attorney, Warren Paboojian.
Joseph Hollak / The Collegian

Former women’s basketball coach Stacy Johnson-Klein was awarded $19.1 million in damages Thursday in the sexual discrimination case she brought against Fresno State.

After four hours of deliberation, the jury of 11 women and one man announced the decision with a verdict of 12-0 on 13 counts.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Johnson-Klein said outside the courtroom after the verdict. “We’ve been dragged through the mud, we’ve been lied about, we’ve been misrepresented.

“And for women in general, I think it’s a victory to see there is a system, there is justice in America.”

Johnson-Klein was Fresno State’s women’s head basketball coach from 2002 until she was fired in March 2005. She filed her sexual discrimination lawsuit against the university in August 2005.

The heated eight-week trial brought several university employees and athletes to the witness stand, including University President John D. Welty, former basketball player Chantella Perera and Johnson-Klein herself.

Closing arguments were held in Fresno County Superior Court Wednesday, where Johnson-Klein’s lawyers said the ex-coach was fired because she fought for women’s rights. A Fresno State lawyer countered that claim by saying she was let go because she was a dishonest and abusive employee.

Welty issued a statement after the verdict was announced:

“This fundamentally has always been an employment case. The university will always act when the health and welfare of its students is endangered.

“I disagree with the decision. We will appeal. But we are determined not to be distracted by it, and will continue with the essential work of the university. I am personally committed, and this university is committed, to the well-being of all of our students.”

Johnson-Klein’s lawsuit marks the third sexual discrimination lawsuit against Fresno State in just five months.
Former volleyball coach Lindy Vivas was awarded $5.85 million in July, although a judge recommended the amount be reduced to $4.52 million. Two months ago, former associate athletic director Diane Milutinovich settled her case for $3.5 million.

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