A lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, August 30, claiming that former Athletic Director Mike Garrett sexually harassed younger female employees within days of his employment at Cal State LA.
The Plaintiff, Dr. Sheila Hudson, a former field Olympian, is the Associate Athletic Director, Senior Woman Administrator, Deputy Title IX Coordinator, and Compliance Coordinator who has worked in Cal State LA’s Athletic department for 14 years.
According to the 22-page complaint, Garrett called female employees, including Hudson, “demeaning” names. He constantly used terms such as “Babe,” “Sweetheart,” “Love,” “Legs,” and told at least one student employee “I love you” and “I could kiss you.” When the University’s Human Resources department was informed of this issue, they justified Garrett’s actions and warned Dr. Hudson against voicing her complaints, the lawsuit alleges.
The complaint also provided information regarding the ongoing sexual harassments, gender discrimination and job opportunity inequity at Cal State LA, addressing five causes of action which included the University’s Violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
In response, Ogletree Deakins, the law firm that represents the University, published an official statement that “this malicious complaint is a reckless compilation of exaggerations and fabrication. It is without substance and will be repudiated by facts. Women hold most of Cal State LA’s top leadership positions.”
Numerous attempts to reach the University for comment were made, but the University is currently not releasing any further information or statement in regards to the lawsuit.
Despite the doubts on the University’s hiring process that Hudson was passed over for the Athletic Director position, she told the University Times that she received complaints about Garrett within the first few weeks of his employment.
“It was very regular, and I felt offended [by these terms]. He just started the job, he was my boss, I was just getting to know him, and it was a very awkward situation,” said Hudson. “In my knowledge, it was just happening to me. It wasn’t until maybe couple weeks later that a student assistant shared with me that she experienced the same thing. This was a very uncomfortable situation and we can’t have this.” Later on, other female employees reported similar encounters, according to the complaint.
After the Human Resources department ignored several of Hudson’s attempts to address this issue, she complained to Garrett directly but was yelled at and chased into her office to “continue to berate her”, the complaint alleges. His reasoning was that “he has always called women these names–including at USC–and they have never complained,” according to the lawsuit.
Intimidated and frightened, Hudson immediately walked to the Office of Human Resources to report Garrett. However, her complaint ended with no action taken. She was advised by Mariel Mulet, the CSU Title IX Coordinator, to cease pursuing any further because of Garrett’s close relationship with President William Covino and Vice President Jose Gomez, according to the complaint.
“These are the people that I have worked with closely for years,” said Hudson. “The feelings I had…It was just betrayal…We knew each other for many years, but now you’re not going to protect me. It was very disappointing and I felt really alone that I was just supposed to go to work and experience this.”
Mike Garrett was replaced in June by Daryl Gross, the former Senior Associate Athletic Director at USC and Athletic Director at Syracuse. According to Hudson, no one informed her that Mike Garrett was moved to Fundraising.
Hudson recently returned to campus from a five-month leave of absence. She expressed that she thought the University would change its practice but the appointment of Daryl Gross in the same manner burned down her hope.
She said she had a lot of fears and even questioned her more than 14 years’ career path during her leave. However, after she conquered her fears of “being considered a troublemaker,” “being damaged professionally,” “being a target further,” and “being attacked again,” she decided to come back and fight for her rights.
“It’s been very overwhelming. The last thing I wanted to do is to be in this situation, it’s very vulnerable and frightening. This is my last resort,” said Hudson. “But I received tons of support from people [when I returned]. I’ve gotten hugs, people were crying, and doing this somehow gives voice to people who are suffering through [similar situations] that I had no idea about. Their response was very touching.”
To Dr. Sheila Hudson, the ultimate goal of this lawsuit against the University and Mike Garrett was rather simple- This is not right, fix it.
The University Times will report on the updates once they are available.