Updated: 11:45 a.m. | Posted: 6:53 a.m.
A U.S. Department of Education office has launched an investigation into claims of gender discrimination by former coaches and athletes at the University of Minnesota's Duluth campus.
Former women's hockey coach Shannon Miller, softball coach and part-time director of women's hockey operations Jen Banford and women's basketball coach Annette Wiles sued the school last fall, alleging that they'd been discriminated against partly because they are openly gay and female.
The coaches argued in the suit that women's athletics programs at the university received less support than men's programs, that female coaches were paid less and that they faced a hostile work environment because of their gender and sexuality.
The university decided not to renew Miller's and Banford's contracts in December 2014. Wiles alleges that she was forced to resign last June.
Officials from the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights alerted lawyers for the coaches late last month that they'd be investigating the claims made in the discrimination complaint filed in December.
The investigation will look at whether men and women received equal equipment, travel funds, facilities and recruitment opportunities. It will also look at whether men and women athletes were treated the same in regard to scheduling and medical and training facilities.
The Office for Civil Rights noted in a letter to the plaintiffs that "opening the allegation for investigation in no way implies that the [Office for Civil Rights] has made a determination with regard to its merit."
University of Minnesota Duluth spokesperson Lynne Williams said school officials are confident that the findings will be positive for the university. She said this sort of investigation is standard for complaints filed with the Department of Education.
"They've asked the university to provide a series of information and data related to the complaints, and we are in the process of providing all of the requested information," Williams said.
The school has until the end of the month to hand over the information requested by the agency. The attorney representing Miller, Banford and Wiles did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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