LSU Athletics Official Claims Discrimination and Retaliation in Lawsuit

Sharon Lewis, an associate athletic director at Louisiana State University, filed a lawsuit in federal district court that alleges former head football coach Les Miles and other athletics administrators for years discriminated against her based on her race and gender and retaliated against her for attempts to report Miles’s sexual misconduct against student workers, USA Today reported.

Lewis, who is Black, was hired by LSU in 2002 and became the first woman director of football recruiting in the Southeastern Conference, one of the top leagues for college football in the country, according to the university’s athletics department. Lewis’s lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, claims she was subjected to racially charged insults, degraded by her superiors and denied raises and promotions after she reported complaints by two student workers who said they were sexually assaulted or harassed by Miles, according to the lawsuit, provided by a spokesperson for Lewis’s legal team.

The lawsuit alleges that Lewis repeatedly spoke up about the department’s mishandling of the complaints and was punished for it. Some of these actions by Lewis were documented last month in a report by the law firm Husch Blackwell, which conducted an investigation into LSU’s missteps in handling sexual misconduct on campus, particularly in the athletics department.

The lawsuit claims that several athletics and university officials retaliated against Lewis in violation of Title IX, the law that prohibits sex discrimination at federally funded institutions. Department of Education policies in place under Title IX during the time frame Lewis said she was mistreated also expressly prohibited retaliation against people who make Title IX complaints and advised institutions to protect complainants from retaliation, her lawsuit states.

Lewis herself was found in violation of LSU’s Title IX policy for failing to bring the student workers’ complaints against Miles directly to the university’s Title IX coordinator. Lewis disputes this violation because she was not trained to report complaints to the coordinator, USA Today reported.

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