UC to pay ex-coach millions in bias suit

Times Staff Writer

Karen Moe Humphreys, a former Olympic gold medal swimmer who became a coach and administrator at UC Berkeley, will receive more than $3.5 million to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit she brought against the university, the UC Board of Regents agreed Thursday.

Humphreys, who worked at UC Berkeley from 1978 until she was laid off in 2004, alleged that she lost her job in retaliation for complaining about the treatment of women by the university’s athletic department.

Under the agreement, Humphreys will be reinstated and then retire in January when she reaches 30 years with the university. She said the $3.5 million will go entirely to cover her attorney fees and legal costs.


“I am really thrilled to be reinstated, and I am happy to recover most of our legal costs,” Humphreys said in a telephone interview. She also will receive back pay and benefits dating to the time she was laid off, but that amount was unclear Thursday.

Humphreys, who won a gold medal in the 200-meter butterfly at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, became coach of the Berkeley swim team and later was assistant athletic director for student services.

She alleged in her lawsuit that she lost her job at Berkeley because of gender discrimination and in retaliation for “blowing the whistle” on a hostile work environment for women in the athletic department, according to a joint statement released by Humphreys and UC Berkeley.

The university denied Humphreys’ allegations. It also denied her claim that her layoff was unlawful.

“Even after three years in court, I never lost faith that the university would do the right thing,” Humphreys said in the joint statement. “I look forward to returning to the university community and continuing to contribute to its mission of integrity and excellence in athletics and gender equity.”

The regents, meeting at UC Santa Barbara, approved the settlement without public discussion; university officials would not comment on details of the case. They made no admission of liability in the settlement.


“The university welcomes the opportunity for the Berkeley campus to move beyond the claims raised in this litigation,” college officials said in the statement. “Although the attorneys’ fees and the costs aspect of the settlement is high, it represents a compromise of the total amount sought by Ms. Humphreys.”