Shannon Miller may have won a multi-million dollar lawsuit, but the former coach of Canada’s Olympic women’s hockey team isn’t sure her career can be salvaged.
The 54-year-old from Melfort, Sask., was awarded almost $3.75 million after suing the University of Minnesota Duluth for discrimination and retaliation. A federal jury awarded Miller more than $744,000 for lost wages and benefits and $3 million for emotional distress Thursday.
Miller was told Dec. 9, 2014, that her contract as head coach of the UMD women’s hockey team would not be renewed after 16 seasons there. She filed a discrimination lawsuit against the school the following year claiming she lost her job because she of her gender and sexual orientation.
Miller coached the Bulldogs to five national championships. The former Calgary police officer also coached Canada’s women to a world championship in 1997 and an Olympic silver medal in 1998.
She told The Canadian Press she couldn’t get a coaching job after her dismissal from UMD. With other litigation still working its way through the courts, Miller wonders if and when she’ll coach again.
“I feel like they’ve ruined my coaching career,” Miller said Friday from Duluth, Minn. “I’ve applied for jobs. I can’t get a job. I can’t even get an interview and I’ve been called the most successful women’s hockey coach on the planet.
“People have referred to me in those terms and you certainly don’t feel that way when you apply for jobs and you can’t get an interview because you’re in the middle of a lawsuit.”
The jury found UMD discriminated against Miller on the basis of sex and retaliated against her for making Title IX complaints regarding the disparity between the men’s and women’s hockey programs. A judge has yet to decide on lost future wage and benefit damages. The Associated Press reported the university is considering an appeal.
“I want to say I’m extremely disappointed in this decision and very surprised by the decision,” The AP quoted UMD Chancellor Lendley Black as saying. “I still stand behind the actions that I took at UMD.”
Miller, who now lives in Las Vegas, estimates she applied for 27 jobs after leaving Duluth. Miller, her partner and former UMD softball coach Jen Banford, and former women’s basketball coach Annette Wiles also filed suit in state court for discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“I’m still in litigation. That’s the problem,” Miller said. “People that are interested in me still are going to know I’m in litigation for another year, probably.”
She was in talks with China’s hockey federation about coaching the national women’s team, but that didn’t happen.
“They wanted to control everything and not change anything and I explained to them they had to change a lot of things if they wanted to get better, so that opportunity didn’t work out,” Miller said.
Even if she doesn’t coach again, Miller wants to continue to fight for women’s rights and LGBT rights.
“Now, when you stand up and fight against discrimination, despite the risks and you win, which I have in this situations, I hope it really encourages women to not take less than, to stand up and fight for equality and their jobs or in their program, fight for your girls, don’t let them be treated less than,” she said.
“Fight for them to be treated equal and as well the men are being treated and if they don’t give it to you, then sue them.’