PANAMA CITY — Frank Sorrells has sued Bay District Schools in federal court for age discrimination stemming from his dismissal as Bay High School’s head football coach in 2011.
Sorrells is seeking damages in excess of $75,000 for lost wages and benefits and punitive damages for emotional distress, mental pain and suffering, among other levels of anguish, according to the lawsuit filed here on Tuesday. He also is asking for an “injunction restraining continuing violations of the laws” by Bay District Schools and seeks reinstatement to his previous position or the equivalent as part of seven items listed in the petition.
After leaving Bay, Sorrells was an assistant coach at Mosley for two seasons. He won a state championship at Niceville in the 1980s and was a head coach at a high school in Virginia prior to coming to Bay.
Sorrells was informed by Bay Principal Billy May that his administrative contract would not be renewed just weeks after the lawsuit indicated the longtime coach received a “positive “exceeds” employment evaluation on or about May 5, 2011. Principal May announced there would be a change at the position later in the month, just prior to the spring football jamboree.
The suit indicates May made statements to The News Herald concerning age in subsequent articles detailing the search process. May was quoted as saying “We’re looking for folks who will be here a long time.” Sorrells, who accordingly to the petition was 65 when he was dismissed, noted at the time of his hiring in 2009 that he “intended to work for at least four or five years, potentially more.”
Jimmy Longerbeam was hired as Sorrells’ replacement in July, 2011. He remains the coach at Bay after two seasons.
The lawsuit claims May’s firing of Sorrells was not based on performance — Bay won nine games in his two seasons after going 0-9 before he arrived — but on his age. The suit also cites quotes from May speaking about Longerbeam’s age, then 49, as the “Perfect age. Our young coaches on the staff can learn from him and, hopefully, we can grow our next coach out of that group.”
Sorrells is asking for judgment against Bay District Schools for the following:
- An injunction restraining continuing violations of the law.
- Reinstatement to same position that Sorrells held before the discriminatory actions or to an equivalent position.
- Reinstatement of full fringe benefits and seniority rights, to the extent such were available to Sorrells.
- Compensation for lost wages, benefits and other remuneration.
- All damages allowed by law.
- Attorney’s fees, costs and cost of this action.
- Any other relief deemed just and proper under the circumstances.