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Federal judge denies Bates' motion to dismiss discrimination lawsuit

A former Bates College football coach filed a lawsuit in April charging the college with discrimination, defamation, negligence, and retaliation.

LEWISTON, Maine — A federal judge on Wednesday denied a motion by Bates College to dismiss a lawsuit by the college's first Black football coach alleging discrimination. The judge also denied a motion to strike from the lawsuit language that refers to the college's "tortured and well-documented record of institutional racism.

Malik Hall, a veteran football coach who led the Bates football team from 2018 to 2021, filed a lawsuit in April charging the college with discrimination, defamation, negligence, and retaliation under the Maine Whistleblowers' Act.

The suit, filed by Hall and his wife, Ayesha Hall, and their three minor children, said they were subjected to "severe racial discrimination" by the college.

Hall, a former Division I football player and coach in the NFL and NCAA, was hired in 2018 by Bates College "in an apparent attempt to address its tortured and well-documented record of institutional racism," the suit alleges.

Among the allegations, Hall accuses the college of "playing on racist stereotypes by manufacturing stories that he and his Black offensive coordinator had committed sexual assault" and "fabricating claims that he and the same coordinator had arranged for students to have sex with football recruits."

The suit alleges the college invented reports it had videos of Hall using anti-gay slurs while speaking to the team, prohibiting him from leading the team in optional prayer but allowing the college's white chaplain to do so, and telling him that as Bates' first Black head football coach, his contract situation was "different" and needed to be reviewed by attorneys before beginning negotiations to renew it.

Credit: NCM

The suit seeks, among other relief, that Bates return Hall to the position of head football coach. It asks the court to award him back pay, benefits, and compensatory, punitive and civil damages.

The suit also asks the court to enjoin the college from any racial discrimination, post a notice of the verdict, and notify all college employees of the verdict.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. denied the college's motion to dismiss all but the defamation claim, which it dismissed without prejudice.

Woodcock also denied a motion to strike language in the suit referring to Bates' alleged history of institutional racism. Woodcock wrote that the letters to and from Bates President Clayton Spencer, a related news article and an Instagram post by Black at Bates cited by the Hall family are not immaterial, impertinent or prejudicial.

"While we are still in the early stages of this case, we were gratified to see the judge recognize that it is not acceptable for a college, or any employer, to repeatedly expose an employee to meritless, racially charged allegations and otherwise treat employees in a manner that fundamentally fails to recognize their right to live and work under fair, safe, and healthy conditions," Hall's attorney, Kelly M. Hoffman of Norman, Hanson & DeTroy, said Thursday. "All Coach Hall is trying to do in this case is stand up against discrimination for himself and his family, and to ensure that those who follow in his footsteps are treated more fairly than he was. We're pleased that this ruling gives Coach Hall the opportunity to continue doing just that."

In a statement to NEWS CENTER Maine, Bates College spokeswoman Mary Pols said, "We are saddened to be in litigation with Mr. Hall. We offered Mr. Hall a contract extension and the plan was for him to remain the football coach. Bates is and always has been committed to ensuring diverse and equitable employment practices. This is fundamental to who we are and to our mission. The claims made by Mr. Hall are without merit and we are confident this will be proven as the case moves forward."

Judge denies motion to dismiss the suit (all but the defamation charge) and also denies motion to strike references to the institutions history of racism in the complaint.

The Court concludes that the plaintiffs have stated a valid claim on which relief can be granted for the discrimination, retaliation, and negligence claims, and denies the motion to dismiss as to all counts except for the defamation claim, which it dismisses without prejudice. The Court also denies the motion to strike in its entirety


[hall v Bates motion to dismiss denied - mostly.pdf]

 (https://tegna.sharepoint.com/sites/NEWSCENTERMaine/Shared Documents/Newsroom/hall v Bates motion to dismiss denied - mostly.pdf)

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