By Kendra Evensen
An Idaho Falls man believes he faced religious discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation while playing for the men’s tennis team at Idaho State University during the 2014-2015 school year.
Orin Duffin has filed a lawsuit against Idaho State University, President Arthur C. Vailas, Athletic Director Jeff Tingey, former head tennis coach Bobby Goeltz and former assistant coach Nate Gross.
He wants a jury trial in the matter and seeks punitive damages and attorney fees among other relief, according to the complaint that was filed on Friday.
ISU officials declined to comment on the situation due to the pending litigation.
Duffin was the only member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the team. And he alleges that he was singled out and harassed by his coaches and subsequently his team members because of his religious affiliation.
He accuses Gross and Goeltz of asking him inappropriate questions about sexual activities related to his beliefs, and using profane language and sexual references that were directed at him during practices, tournaments and team events, according to the complaint.
During a stay in Las Vegas for a tournament, Duffin alleges that Gross invited team members to a strip club and provided alcoholic beverages to team members and harassed him when he did not participate in either activity.
Duffin also accuses Gross and team members of arranging to send two prostitutes/strippers to his room to “tempt him to violate his religious tenets and to sexually harass and embarrass him,” according to the complaint.
“Plaintiff sent the women away and was devastated that he would be singled out and discriminated against solely because of his religious beliefs,” the complaint states. “One teammate reported to ISU that ‘I don’t think they would have done that if he wasn’t Mormon.”
The complaint states that Goeltz knew about the harassment and rather than investigate it, he questioned Duffin’s sexuality and insinuated he was gay.
Duffin was also harassed for not playing tennis when he was hurt and was purposely struck with the ball during practices, according to the complaint. In addition, he was prohibited from playing in double matches after he accepted a call to serve a mission for his church.
One of the team members eventually reported concerns about the way Duffin was being treated to athletic administrators at ISU, and Duffin later filed a report as well, according to the complaint.
It goes on to say that Stacey Gibson, ISU’s Director of Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action and Diversity and Title IX Administrator, conducted an investigation.
“In the report, Ms. Gibson found that, “[t]he interviews conducted collectively paint a clear picture that the [Plaintiff] was subjected to severe, persistent and pervasive harassment and bullying,” according to the court complaint. “In particular they establish that the [Plaintiff’s] religion was a contributing factor of that treatment; that [coach Gross] actively participated in that harassment; and that [coach Goeltz] accepted a team culture that promulgated such harassment and/or bullying of the [Plaintiff] by [Gross] and members of the men’s tennis team.”
Gibson subsequently recommended Goeltz’s termination and would have done the same for Gross, but he had already resigned, according to the complaint.