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Judge dismisses wrongful termination lawsuit filed by former PSU football athletic trainer

BRET PALLOTTO
Centre Daily Times (TNS)
Tim Bream

A Centre County judge dismissed Tuesday a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by a former Penn State football athletic trainer who claimed the university made his working so intolerable that he was forced to resign.

Gettysburg High School graduate Tim Bream, who served separately as an adviser to Beta Theta Pi and was present the night Tim Piazza fell down the fraternity’s basement stairs in February 2017, also accused the university of using him as a scapegoat.

Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers issued a succinct statement Thursday about county President Judge Pamela Ruest’s ruling, simply saying, “We are pleased with the judge’s decision.”

Bream, a Penn State alum, returned to Happy Valley in 2012 with a five-year contract in hand. The pact expired in June 2017, though Bream continued as an at-will employee.

The university stripped Bream of his administrative role as assistant athletic director in February 2018, about one year after Piazza died.

The demotion included a “significant” reduction in job responsibilities and “substantially” reduced his pay, Ruest wrote in her 17-page ruling. Bream resigned later that day.

But in Pennsylvania, there is generally no law that prevents the termination of an at-will employee. And there were also separate, legitimate reasons for Bream’s firing, Ruest wrote.

He failed to tell Penn State about his role at Beta Theta Pi, kept keys to a safe in an unlocked desk — which led to prescription drugs being stolen twice — and made unauthorized equipment purchases, Ruest wrote.

“These events show that (Penn State) had separate, plausible and legitimate reasons for discharging (Bream) regardless of any alleged public policy involved,” Ruest wrote.

Bream has 20 days as of Tuesday to file an amended lawsuit.

Steven Marino, Bream’s attorney, said he was not able to immediately comment Thursday on Ruest’s ruling.