A sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former Cal State Los Angeles administrator against the school and ex-athletic director Mike Garrett should be dismissed because the terms he used toward the plaintiff that she found offensive are “gender neutral terms of endearment,” according to court papers filed by defense attorneys.
According to former CSULA senior associate athletic director Sheila Hudson’s complaint, Garrett referred to female employees, including Hudson, as “Babe,” “Sweetheart,” “Love” and “Legs” during his tenure as CSULA’s athletic director.
Hudson sued CSULA and Garrett last Aug. 29 in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging that he lacked many capabilities necessary to do his job as CSULA’s athletic director, a position he held for about a year before leaving in 2016. The former USC football star had previously held the same title at his alma mater.
Lawyers for the school and Garrett counter in their court papers that Hudson was upset that she was not named CSULA’s athletic director after Dan Bridges retired in 2015.
“Plaintiff unreasonably thought she was the only person qualified for the position,” they wrote. “In a spectacular display of sour grapes, plaintiff claimed she was passed over for the AD position because she is a woman. Moreover, plaintiff launched a campaign to take down Garrett by … raising sexual harassment complaints against him.”
The school found someone to replace Bridges who was far more experienced and qualified than Hudson, and “that person was Garrett,” the defense lawyers state in their court documents.
Three other women in the Athletics Department that Hudson said she also believed were harassed by Garrett were questioned, and not one was offended by the use of the same terms that bothered the plaintiff, according to the defense attorneys.
“Only plaintiff purports to have been offended by Garrett’s use of the terms … and only plaintiff raised complaints of sexual harassment,” according to the attorneys for the university and Garrett, while arguing that the words are “gender neutral terms of endearment.”
They say Garrett used the same terms when addressing men, including the current athletic director, Daryl Gross.
“These are terms that Gross understood to be terms of endearment,” the defense lawyers state in their court papers. “While working with Garrett, Gross has observed Garrett use the term, `I love you’ to both men and women.”
In a deposition, Garrett testified it is difficult in retrospect to evaluate how well Hudson did her job.
“I would describe it as I didn’t see her very much,” Garrett said.
Asked about any other deficiencies he found with Hudson’s work, Garrett said, “Well, that’s the biggest area because you couldn’t figure out what she could do … because the availability wasn’t there.”
Garrett said he did not agree with Hudson’s view that students should not call professors.
“I think the idea was the people would coerce professors to do something or whatever, but that was not the case and every place I’ve been … you can call professors and help kids get classes or whatever is necessary for them to do well in their classes,” Garrett said.
Hudson was herself sued May 26 by the CSU Board of Trustees and three CSULA employees, who allege she secretly recorded conversations with them in 2016.
Hudson’s lawyer, Nancy Abrolat, said Hudson was fired May 24 over those allegations and that her client may soon file a cross-complaint in that case.
Hudson, who was hired by the school in October 2002, admitted during a deposition in her own case that she used her cell phone to record conversations with the three individual plaintiffs as well as one with Jose Gomez, CSULA’s executive vice president and CEO, who is not a plaintiff, the university suit alleges.
A hearing on the CSULA motion to dismiss Hudson’s case is scheduled Aug. 30.
–City News Service