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Mike Garrett accused of sexual harassment by Cal State L.A. associate athletic director

Mike Garrett accused of sexual harassment by Cal State L.A. associate athletic director
Mike Garrett (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

A lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court late Monday alleged that Mike Garrett, the former USC athletic director, sexually harassed female employees at Cal State Los Angeles before he retired earlier this year after a brief tenure as the school's athletic director.

Sheila Hudson, Cal State L.A.'s senior associate athletic director, accused Garrett and the school of violating California's Fair Employment and Housing Act and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among five causes of action.

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"Immediately upon hire, Garrett began calling the women in the Athletics Department, including Plaintiff, degrading, sexist names, such as, 'Sweetheart,' 'Love' and 'Babe,' and one particular woman: 'Legs,'" the 22-page complaint said. "Garrett told one student assistant 'I love you' and 'I could kiss you.'"

The lawsuit said Garrett confronted Hudson after she complained about the language.

"In response, Garrett exploded at Plaintiff. 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, Plaintiff returned to her office, only to have Garrett chase after her, storm into her office and continue to berate her."

Hudson is seeking a court order installing her as Cal State L.A.'s athletic director in addition to unspecified monetary damages.

"This malicious complaint is a reckless compilation of exaggerations and fabrications," the school's law firm, Ogletree Deakins, said in a statement to The Times. "It is without substance and will be repudiated by facts. Women hold most of Cal State L.A.'s top leadership positions."

Attempts to reach Garrett weren't immediately successful.

The school hired Garrett, USC's athletic director from 1993 to 2010, last November. Daryl Gross, the former senior associate athletic director at USC and Syracuse athletic director, replaced him in June.

At the time, Cal State L.A. credited Garrett with playing a key role in recruiting Gross for the job.

The lawsuit said that the positions filled by Garrett, then Gross weren't posted as job openings. It described Hudson as the "perfect candidate" for the athletic department's top job and alleged Garrett and Gross were instead targeted "first and foremost" because of their gender.

Hudson, hired as an assistant track and field coach at Cal State L.A. in 2002 before becoming an associate athletic director in 2008, said the school retaliated after she submitted a report in February highlighting gaps in pay and other areas between men and women in the athletics department. She said the school paid her "thousands of dollars less a year" than the two men who previously held her position.

The lawsuit described a 204-page report compiled by an outside attorney the school hired to investigate allegations of gender discrimination and sexual harassment as "designed to cover up" violations, citing among the report's findings that Garrett used "terms of endearment" that weren't sexist toward female employees.

A statement issued by Hudson's attorney, Nancy Abrolat, called the lawsuit a "last resort."

Twitter: @nathanfenno

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