Drake University and its former head athletic trainer are digging in their heels over a brewing legal dispute that centers on whether the school sufficiently accommodated an athletic trainer’s medical condition and subsequently overreacted when it fired him because of an alleged byproduct of that medical condition.
Scott Kerr, 61, was fired on Sept. 2, 2016 after he urinated in a whirlpool tub in the training room, which is used by student athletes.
After his termination, Kerr filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, claiming he was terminated because of a medical condition. Kerr claimed that in 2010 he was diagnosed with neurally mediated syncope. This, he claimed, requires him to drink copious amounts of water to stay hydrated. Kerr also alleged he suffers from an enlarged prostate. Combined, both factors cause a frequent urge to urinate, according to the complaint.
“He was alone in the training room and urinated in the tank, rather than on the floor, knowing he would not be able to make it to a restroom,” said attorney Jerry Crawford of Crawford Mauro Law Firm. He added that Kerr rectified the situation by scouring the tub using Soft Scrub and bleach.
The university countered in a statement that the only reason Kerr reported the incident was because a “female colleague who witnessed his behavior insisted that the matter be reported two days later.”
Drake further maintains that Kerr did not request “an accommodation for any medical condition prior to the events in question nor prior to the termination decision being made by Drake University. Athletic Director Sandy Hatfield-Clubb consulted with human resources, university counsel, and university leadership before taking action in this case. She considered Kerr’s many years of service and felt the weight of the respect and concern that she personally feels for Kerr. However, Kerr’s conduct rendered it impossible for him to continue as Drake University’s head athletic trainer. Drake University looks forward to presenting the Iowa Civil Rights Commission with a comprehensive depiction of Kerr’s conduct and the conscientious decision-making process that led up to his separation, and Drake’s position that Kerr was terminated for his decisions and conduct and not due to any unlawful discrimination.”
Roxanne Conlin, an attorney for Kerr, released the following response to Drake’s statement:
“The notion that Drake gave any meaningful consideration to Scott before firing him is simply false and revisionist history. Within 15 minutes of Scott reporting what occurred, the Drake athletic director ordered Scott to leave the building. The athletic director then terminated Scott before giving him a chance to consult with his doctor to obtain a diagnosis or treatment. Drake’s athletic director gave virtually no consideration to Scott, his years of service or his sensitive medical issue before choosing to fire him after 31 years of sterling performance. It would be surprising if the Iowa Civil Rights Commission gave any weight whatsoever to this ridiculous defense. In the statement issued by the university, the administration admits that Scott was fired for something directly related to his condition of disability. It doesn’t matter who the athletic director and administrators consulted with if their actions violated the law. And they did.”
Kerr said in reports that Hatfield-Clubb told him that he should have urinated on himself rather than in the tank, which showed that he was “unfit and not capable of making decisions for the student-athlete.”
Elaborating on this, he noted that the AD “recounted a story where she herself urinated in her pants in an airport while on Drake business and told me I should have done the same thing. When I heard that story I was very confused, embarrassed, and I didn’t know quite how to react to that story.”
As a preamble to its statement on the lawsuit, Drake said it was countering the plaintiff’s approach in the media.
“Personnel matters are taken very seriously at Drake University and out of respect for everyone involved Drake works hard to preserve their confidential nature. However, given Kerr’s decision to open this matter to public discourse, Drake University is compelled to take the extraordinary step of providing a more detailed response to Kerr’s accusations.”