Former Olympic athlete and Cal State LA Administrator Dr. Sheila Hudson, accused the University of gender discrimination in Aug. 2016. Meanwhile, she accused ex-Athletic Director Mike Garrett of sexual harassment simultaneously.
Hudson’s 22-page complaint alleged that Heisman Trophy recipient Mike Garrett—upon hire— began addressing his younger female employees by ‘sexist names’ such as, ‘babe’ ‘legs’ ‘sweetheart’ and ‘love.’ Allegedly, he told one student assistant: ‘I love you’ and ‘I could kiss you.’
Mike Garrett, University of Southern California (USC) alumni and former football player, explained in the report how he had always called women by those names during his position at USC and that no one ever ‘complained.’
Defense attorneys concluded that the three women at Cal State LA who Hudson alleged to have been victims, were not offended by his use of those terms.
Dr. Hudson, former U.S. Track and Field Olympian, was hired at Cal State LA in 2002 as the Collegiate Athletics’ Coach and was eventually promoted to Associate Athletics Director in 2008. The department allegedly overlooked Hudson—who was next in line—in 2015 for the Athletic Director Position and gave it to USC’s Athletic Director Mike Garrett without considering other applicants.
University officials declined to comment on details of the lawsuit; however, they referred to this statement:
“Cal State LA prides itself on being a welcoming and inclusive campus and does not tolerate discrimination or harassment due to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identification, marital status, pregnancy, age, disability, or veteran status.”
Hudson claimed that Cal State LA President Covino “devised a plan to ensure that they found a man for the job” to “ensure that Hudson (a woman), could not apply for the position,” according to the report published by the Los Angeles Times.
In Feb. 2016, Hudson submitted a gender equality report outlining Cal State LA’s gap in pay between men and women in the athletic department. The report showed that men were paid over $2,000 more for the same position as a woman.
Hudson filed the initial lawsuit against Cal State LA and Garrett at the Los Angeles Superior Court on Aug. 26, 2016. The five causes of action described included a violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress—against all defendants—a violation of the California Rights Act, and two violations of the California Labor Code.
The lawsuit claims that Hudson informed former Title IX Coordinator Mariel Mulet of Garrett’s behavior and was told that she would face retaliation if she pursued any further action. After feeling threatened and bullied, Hudson illegally recorded the next three meetings between her and human resources, including other University officials, on her cell phone in order to support her claim.
On May 26, 2017, the CSU Board of Trustees sued Hudson for invasion of privacy while her lawsuit was still underway. Three other Cal State LA employees, Susan Varela, Cal State LA’s associate vice president for human resources management; Mariel Mulet, who now works as the Senior Investigator at USC; and Daryl Gross, the University’s current Athletics Director, all sued her on the same count and attempted to pursue criminal charges.
At the end of May 2017, Dr. Hudson was fired and barred from employment at any CSU. She then filed a cross complaint three months later in August under terms of wrongful termination and several violations of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, according to the lawsuit.
Over a year later in December 2018, Cal State LA settled the sexual harassment lawsuit for $2.75 million, according to the LA Times. The settlement agreement showed that neither party assumed any ‘liability’ or ‘wrongdoing’.
Hudson declined to be interviewed due to the proximity of the lawsuit; however, she did indicate to the University Times that she is working on moving forward with her life and plans to continue advocating for injustices.
Garrett retired from his tenure at the Cal State LA in mid-2016 less than a year after being hired; his request was approved before the allegations arose. Garrett was not able to be reached for a comment.
“I look forward to someday working again in collegiate athletics,” said Hudson. “Or maybe utilizing my doctorate to teach athletics administration; this has always been my passion.”