Football: Haywood’s lawsuit against Pitt won’t affect agency’s investigation

By Lauren Kirschman

Former Pitt football head coach Michael Haywood’s federal lawsuit against the University… Former Pitt football head coach Michael Haywood’s federal lawsuit against the University won’t have an effect on the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission investigation into Haywood’s firing.

PHRC spokeswoman Shannon Powers said in an email that the PHRC, not the EEOC, is conducting the investigation. She added that the complaint is “dual-filed” with the two agencies so that Haywood’s rights are protected under both federal, the EEOC is a federal agency, and state law.

The PHRC received Haywood’s complaint questionnaire on June 30 and began an investigation in mid August. Powers said on Aug. 16 that public information is limited to the complaint from Haywood and its filing date.

The complaint in the lawsuit said that the University breached its contract with Haywood and his due process rights, while the complaint filed with the PHRC cites a racial motivation for his firing and lists employment discrimination as its main point. The PHRC investigation is still open, Powers said, and since the suit Haywood filed and the PHRC complaint cite separate allegations, they can take place simultaneously.

Pitt spokesman John Fedele declined comment on Monday, saying the University does not comment on pending litigation. Pitt Athletics spokesman E.J. Borghetti also declined comment.

The lawsuit and investigation stem from Pitt’s firing of Haywood on Jan. 1. The night before that,  less than two weeks after he was hired, police arrested Haywood in South Bend, Ind., on charges of domestic abuse against the mother of his child.

At a court hearing on Feb. 11, Haywood entered a court diversion program in Indiana, which requires 60 hours of community service and a psychological evaluation. If he completes the deal, the charges will be dismissed in one year.

Court documents said that during the hearing, Haywood admitted to touching the mother of his child in a “rude, insolent or angry manner” and said she suffered an injury after falling.

A June 28 news release from Buzbee Law Firm said that soon after the domestic abuse allegation, the mother of Haywood’s child filed papers saying that Haywood didn’t pose a danger to her or their then-21-month-old child and that “the submitted paperwork also raised questions about the accuracy of the police report.”

The lawsuit asserts that Pitt didn’t honor an agreement to buy out Haywood’s $300,000 contract with Miami University of Ohio.

Haywood would have received up to $7.5 million plus incentives from the five-year contract with Pitt, the complaint states, and he is looking for at least $3.75 million in damages. According to the complaint, Haywood’s contract entitled him to $750,000 for each year remaining on the contract if the University fired him “without just cause.”

Powers said that if Haywood wanted to file a separate lawsuit in federal court citing the same allegations as the PHRC complaint, he would either have to wait 180 days after he filed his complaint or the PHRC would have to close the investigation.

Haywood can’t enter a complaint in state court until a year after the filing date, Powers said, and added that the PHRC ceases investigations after they are turned over to the courts.

At the conclusion of the commission’s investigation, which could take up to a year, the PHRC would reach one of two findings: probable cause or no probable cause.

If there is probable cause of discrimination, Powers said there would be one last effort to settle and then the case would proceed to a public hearing. If there is no probable cause, the filing party is notified and has 10 days to put forth further information.

The new information is then reviewed in a preliminary hearing and if no cause is found, the party is informed of his or her right to file the case in court.

Under state law, the party must allow the PHRC one year to investigate the claim. If the case is still open after one year, the party is notified so that he or she can file a case in the court of common pleas.