Coach Sues Over Pay Disparity

February 5, 2018

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania is being sued by its women’s volleyball coach, Melissa Soboleski, for gender-based pay disparity. The lawsuit also claims the university retaliated against Soboleski after she brought up the pay disparity.

According to GoErie.com, the university’s “Tier 1” sports include men’s and women’s basketball, wrestling, and women’s volleyball. In 2016, the difference between Soboleski’s salary and the lowest-paid male Tier 1 coach was more than $10,000.

According to the lawsuit, the lowest-paid male coach in Tier 1 was hired without head coaching experience. Soboleski was hired with more than 10 years of experience as a head coach.

“Unfortunately, despite her impressive experience, unwavering dedication and many outstanding professional achievements, coach Soboleski is paid substantially less than her similarly situated male counterparts for equal work,” Soboleski’s lawyers said in a prepared statement.

The pay discrepancy was first brought up in 2015, when Soboleski was meeting with Bruce Baumgartner, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania’s Athletic Director and Deputy Title IX Coordinator, for an annual job evaluation. The lawsuit states that Soboleski’s request was ignored for more than a year.

In 2016, Baumgartner chaired a committee examining pay disparity. This was challenged by two male coaches as well as Soboleski due to the conflict of interest; Baumgartner also recommends salaries for athletic department employees.

After further investigation, Soboleski was given a small raise—less than what was approved by the university’s president. According to the lawsuit, Baumgartner retaliated through means such as denying routine requests and acting in a threatening or intimidating manner.

“It’s uncomfortable and awkward to sue your employer,” Sunshine Fellows, one of Soboleski’s lawyers, said. “But she’d exhausted all available internal aveneus.”

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