Liberty University (LU) in Virginia is facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit after a former employee claimed that he was unjustly terminated from the institution last year despite being promised a high-level position for at least a decade.
Liberty alumnus and former NFL player Kelvin Edwards filed the suit Friday at the US District Court for the Western District of Virginia. In the complaint, Edwards recounted that the university hired him last June to serve as its vice president for diversity with the assurance of long-term employment.
However, he was taken by surprise when LU President Jerry Prevo terminated his contract on October 2. The plaintiff is now seeking more than $7 million in damages — including current and future lost wages as well as breach of contract.
Edwards alleges that race-based discrimination was involved in the decision, violating the Virginia Human Rights Act and federal laws.
Breach of Contract?
The former football player claims that he was promised a $275,000 annual salary, monthly vehicle allowance of $1,500, full undergraduate and graduate scholarships for him and his family, and the construction of a new home on Liberty mountain.
According to the suit, LU told Edwards that it wanted to commit to him for at least 10 years or until he decides to retire. The university announced his new role in August, but things took a turn for the unexpected after a few weeks.
“On our around September 4, 2020, Prevo indicated to Mr. Edwards that he felt that there was confusion about Mr. Edward’s role at the University. Prevo also told Mr. Edwards that he did not recall approving this job description. It became clear that Prevo’s confusion could be explained by the fact that Prevo did not believe in diversity efforts based at Liberty. In fact, during the same time frame, Mr. Edwards heard Prevo comment that there were ‘too many people’ in diversity and inclusion,” the lawsuit read.
Prevo met with Edwards again on September 28, saying that Edwards would be removed from his position and placed under Turner Gill, another administrator at the university. The suit accuses Prevo of having made the decision without informing Edwards about the new trajectory of his career with Liberty.
Taking into account the nature of his termination, Edwards believes that racial discrimination was involved. However, WFXR News reported that LU released a statement refuting the claims.
“Efforts to work with Mr. Edwards to find an alternative role for which he was qualified with a reasonable compensation package were unfruitful. Mr. Edwards insisted on retaining the executive role with no change in compensation. He demanded five years’ salary with no work, which Liberty simply cannot pay under governing law,” the statement read.
“Those allegations are completely false. President Prevo has assembled a high-quality and well-qualified team in Liberty’s Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity division and increased its budget by over $1 million. They are moving forward and executing on amazing projects and initiatives with the full support and blessing of the acting president,” it noted.