Less than 48 hours after his dismissal as the head coach of the Washington State Cougars for failure to comply with the state’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate, Nick Rolovich’s attorney announced Rolovich’s intention to sue his former employer.
Brian Fahling, Rolovich’s attorney, said in a release to several national media members that the “discriminatory and vindictive behavior” of athletic director Pat Chun toward Rolovich and his family did them immeasurable harm. For the first time, through the release, we learned Rolovich is a “devout Catholic,” though his attorney did not expand on Rolovich’s exact reasoning for refusing the vaccine besides that faith.
Just received this from an attorney representing Nick Rolovich, who plans to sue #WashingtonState for illegal termination. Accuses AD Pat Chun of “discriminatory and vindictive behavior.” pic.twitter.com/KTOnIchKXD— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) October 20, 2021
Fahling, a Seattle-area based attorney, also made clear something that had been muddied a bit in the last couple of days: Rolovich’s exemption request was flatly denied by the school, meaning Chun didn’t have the opportunity to grant accommodations even if he’d been inclined to — and Fahling asserts he would not have been granted accommodations, either.
Fahling described Rolovich’s firing as “unjust and unlawful,” but that doesn’t seem to square with the current legal boundaries of Governor Jay Inslee’s proclamation, which stood up in court in Thurston County just this week.
Fahling also alleges hypocrisy on the part of the university, saying Chun took Rolovich and others on a donor trip in July of last year where the former coach was apparently the only person who did not contract the virus.
Though this forthcoming legal action was expected from Rolovich — who forfeited more than $10 million in future compensation — it certainly came quickly and is more “scorched earth” than we might have expected. Rolovich’s own attorney is acknowledging that his exemption request, which is actioned by an HR committee and is done so blindly (without any input from Chun or WSU president Kirk Schulz), was denied and the suit is at least partially based on what would have happened. Any good attorney will tell you, “well, this might have gone on if this happened!” is usually not a great basis for a lawsuit.
We’re waiting on comment from the university or the state attorney general’s office. We’ll update this story if that becomes available.