LOS ANGELES -- A former U.S. Olympian has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging Mike Garrett, the 1965 winner of the Heisman Trophy and former athletics director at USC, sexually harassed her and other female employees at Cal State Los Angeles, where Garrett recently served as the athletic director.
California State University, the trustees of the California State University, California State University Los Angeles and Garrett are listed as the defendants.
Among the claims from Dr. Sheila Hudson, who has served as the senior associate athletic director at the school since 2008, are that Garrett referred to women in the athletics department as sexist names, including "Sweetheart," "Love," "Babe" and one woman specifically as "Legs." The lawsuit also alleges Garrett told a student assistant, "I could kiss you," and was generally unfit for the job. "Garrett is essentially computer illiterate," the complaint says.
After complaining to the school's Title IV coordinator, Mariel Mulet, about the names Garrett used to address female employees, the lawsuit says Mulet warned Hudson -- who finished tenth in the triple jump at the 1996 Summer Olympics -- that she could face retaliation if she pursued any further action, as a result of Garrett's close relationship with the school's president, William Covino, and vice president, Jose Gomez.
When Hudson, who has worked for the school since 2002, requested to Garrett -- in writing and verbally -- that he stop using the various names, the lawsuit says Garrett "exploded" at her.
"He yelled, amongst other things, that he has always called women these names -- including at USC -- and they have never complained," the lawsuit said. "Feeling intimidated by this attack, [Hudson] returned to her office, only to have Garrett chase after her, storm into her office, close the door and continue to berate her."
Hudson felt passed over for the job when the school hired Garrett in November 2015. The lawsuit also alleges Covino "devised a plan to ensure that they found a man" for the job, which included action to "ensure that Hudson could not apply for the position."
The law firm Ogletree Deakins, which is representing Cal State Los Angeles, issued the following statement:
"This malicious complaint is a reckless compilation of exaggerations and fabrications. It is without substance and will be repudiated by facts. Women hold most of Cal State L.A.'s top leadership positions."
Garrett, who served as the athletic director at USC from 1993-2010, was replaced at Cal State Los Angeles in June by former Syracuse AD Daryl Gross.
Five cause actions were listed in the lawsuit: a violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act; intentional infliction of emotional distress; a violation of the California Family Rights Act; and two violations of state Labor Code.
The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and an unspecified amount of damages.