UT paying $320K to settle discrimination lawsuit

A $320,000 settlement was reached Thursday in Debby Jennings’ lawsuit against the University of Tennessee and athletic director Dave Hart, alleging “unlawful discrimination and retaliation” after Jennings’ abrupt departure from the athletic department in May of 2012, reports the News-Sentnel.

The parties issued a joint press release, detailing settlement terms for a suit that was scheduled to go to trial April 27, 2015.

Jennings, the primary media contact for Lady Vols athletics for more than 35 years, filed the suit in September of 2012. Jennings’ lawyer, David A. Burkhalter, submitted 41 pages and 11 exhibits. The suit sought a trial by jury and both monetary and injunctive relief. It also specifically requested a court order requiring Hart and athletic department officials Chris Fuller and Jimmy Stanton to undergo “appropriate diversity and ethics training.”

In Thursday’s release, the university acknowledged “the substantial contributions Ms. Jennings made to the University and the Lady Vols during her 35 years of service.”

It also was stipulated that the agreement was not an admission of liability by the university and Hart.

Jennings, a UT alum, issued a statement that included: “I am hopeful my lawsuit has cast some light on some of the inequities that I and others experienced in the combined UT Athletics Department. My sincere desire is that my University will strive to bridge the gap in the disparity of the number of women and minorities in leadership roles within the UTAD.”

Per the agreement, the university will issue three payments under the following terms:

Jennings will be paid $173,063.42 for “alleged pain and suffering.”

Jennings also will be paid $30,540.50, less all applicable withholdings, as “alleged wage-based damages.”

Attorneys’ fees and expenses of $116,396.00 will be paid to the firm of Burkhalter, Rayson & Associates.