The Ruling in Burns’ Wrongful Termination Suit vs. SDSU

In recent news, Beth Burns was victorious in her wrongful termination lawsuit against SDSU. The former San Diego State women’s basketball coach was awarded a $3.35 million judgment in San Diego Superior Court per jury decision. The case was founded on whistleblower retaliation accusations that occurred after Burns complained about potential Title IX violations at the college.  

The jury trial went on for a month. The jury consisted of five women and seven men who voted 9-3 in Burns’ favor after deliberating for two days. The 9-3 vote represents the minimum required by California civil court.

Burns is known as SDSU’s “winningest” women’s basketball coach. The wrongful termination lawsuit was drawn out into a three-year legal battle. She did not want to go through the process, but felt she had not other choice as she was being accused of physically hitting someone, others were saying she was not a good person, and she couldn’t accept that. She felt the legal battle was necessary in order to clear her name from the false accusations. 

In April of 2013 Burns was fired from her position as women’s basketball coach at the university. This was one month after her team won 27 games (breaking a school record) and only nine month after Burns’ contract extension through 2016-17 was granted paying her $220,000 per year plus bonuses and benefits. After her termination, she was out of work for a year before taking a job as an assistant coach at USC with a pay cut to $150,000 per year.

SDSU claimed that the reason for Burns’ termination was a “history” of mistreating her subordinates with a video from a February 2013 home game showing Burns elbowing assistant coach Adam Barrett who was seated to her right on the bench. Burns described the elbow as “incidental contact on a crowded bench.”  

The $3.35 million judgment was based on an award of $468,500 for past economic losses, $887,750 for future economic losses and $2 million for past and future non-economic losses and damages. 

If you have questions about wrongful termination, whistleblower retaliation or a hostile work environment, please get in touch with the experienced southern California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.