Former Penn State football athletic trainer Tim Bream has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the university alleging administrators made his working conditions ‘so intolerable that he was compelled to resign.”
Bream also served in a separate capacity as live-in adviser for the now banned Beta Theta Pi fraternity where Timothy Piazza sustained fatal injuries in 2017. The lawsuit filed by his attorney, Steven Marino, contends that actions taken by the university against Bream were done so with the ‘ulterior motive of avoiding the appearance of impropriety, wrongdoing or scandal at the expense of” Bream’s rights.
The lawsuit filed in Centre County Court names the university, athletic director Sandy Barbour and senior associate athletic director Charmelle Green as defendants.
Bream, an alumnus of Penn State and Beta Theta Pi, was present the night a heavily intoxicated Piazza fell down the basement stairs during bid acceptance night, but has testified that he was asleep that night and unaware of what occurred. He also said he did not know about or approve of alcohol at fraternity functions.
Surveillance video footage would later show Bream walking through the hall, about 10 feet from where Piazza was on the floor, shortly after 5 a.m. Attorneys for defendants in the resulting criminal cases have questioned his testimony and why he was not charged as well. In his role as adviser, Bream was employed by the fraternity’s alumni corporation, not the university.
Bream was head athletic trainer for the Chicago Bears for 19 years before he was recruited to Penn State in 2012 as director of athletic training services and head athletic trainer for football, later being promoted to assistant athletic director overseeing training for all 31 varsity sports.
According to the lawsuit, Bream’s first two annual performance evaluations were conducted with contributions from administrative personnel who had medical training and health care expertise, in accordance with NCAA and Pennsylvania guidelines for college sports medicine staff. In 2015-16, Green, who is not a medical professional, conducted the performance evaluation and characterized his performance as ‘excellent,’ according to the lawsuit.
In 2017, following Piazza’s death, Green again conducted Bream’s evaluation but this time charged Bream with “poor performance” for “failing to satisfy expectations in areas which do not reflect upon the plaintiff’s work performance,” Marino wrote.
The evaluation was a “predetermined outcome which did not accurately represent the competency of the plaintiff’s job performance,” according to the lawsuit.
On Feb. 6, 2018, Bream was relieved of his role as assistant athletic director and his compensation was ‘substantially reduced.’ Those actions created ‘intolerable working conditions’ that forced Bream to resign four days later, Marino wrote.
Marino wrote that the employment actions were ‘intentional, deliberate and reckless,’ with the loss of wages and benefits causing Bream to leave his employment, relocate to another state for work and “be isolated from a community of persons, colleagues friends and a program which had become an integral part of his life.”
Bream is now director of sports medicine and an athletic trainer at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
The lawsuit also contends Bream suffered emotional distress and a loss of prestige and professional standing because of the university’s actions, which Bream claims were ‘undertaken as a result of the plaintiff’s association with his duties as an in-house advisor on behalf of the Beta Theta Pi Alpha Upsilon fraternity house where a tragic on-campus hazing fatality occurred at or about February 2, 2017.’
The six-count lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.