LSU associate AD files whistleblower suit in state court

LSU Associate Athletic Director Sharon Lewis has filed another lawsuit against LSU and several of its current and former administrators and board members over the way she says she was treated for reporting on sexual misconduct and violence within the university’s athletic department.

The latest suit was filed in late May in 19th Judicial District Court and contains mostly the same salacious allegations that made headlines earlier this spring, when Lewis filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, alleging she was subjected to a hostile work environment and years of retaliation for repeatedly trying to report sexual harassment allegations involving former head football coach Les Miles. 

Unlike Lewis’ federal suit, which bases the allegations on violations of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that protects against discrimination on the basis of sex in educational institutions, her state suit alleges she was wronged under the state’s whistleblower statute.

That law, La. RS 23:967, prohibits retaliation against an employee for reporting a violation of state law.

The state laws Lewis claims in her suit to have been violated and that she was retaliated against for trying to report to higher-ups at LSU include: intentional discrimination in employment, sexual battery, battery of a dating partner, and simple battery.

“It’s a totally different law,” says Lewis’ attorney, Larry English. “It’s based on the state whistleblower statute.”

Still, the suit recounts many of the same details about Miles’ demand that Lewis, who was in charge of recruiting for the football program, hire more attractive female student workers with “big boobs,” instead of girls who were “too fat, too ugy, too black … “ and looked like “a bowling team,” court documents say. 

The recent filing does not represent a departure from Lewis’ original legal strategy, according to English, who says he always intended to file suits in both federal and state courts.

LSU declines to comment on the suit, which is the latest development in a series of scandals that dominated headlines throughout the spring  but, more recently, has quieted down.

That’s in part because LSU announced a series of reforms, including the creation of a new, beefed-up Title IX and civil righs office to investigate and address reports of sexual violence and misconduct on campus.

It’s also because the suits filed earlier this spring—in addition to Lewis’ suit, several former female students also have sued in federal court alleging Title IX violations—have barely begun to make their way through the court system, much less come to a point of hearings, trials or settlements.

But just because things have quieted down in recent weeks doesn’t mean the issues have gone away, as Lewis’ recent suit illustrates.

Besides the lawsuits, two separate federal agencies are still investigating the university in connection with the scandals and a regional higher ed accrediting body is reviewing LSU’s accreditation status because of allegations made public earlier this year.