Sharon Lewis, LSU’s associate athletic director of football recruiting and alumni relations, is filing a $50 million Title IX lawsuit against the school, according to state and federal lawsuits filed this week, first reported by USA Today.
She alleges "a RICO Act conspiracy to cover up Title IX complaints," according to USA Today, and that she was a victim of harassment and retaliation for reporting Les Miles’s sexual harassment.
"Members of the LSU Board of Supervisors, LSU Athletic Department, LSU Leadership and their law firm, Taylor Porter, entered into a conspiracy to hide Les Miles's sexual harassment investigation from federal officials and the public and to retaliate against Ms. Lewis," attorney Tammye Brown said, per WAFB's Lester Duhe. "Over the last eight years, Ms. Lewis has stood up to protect LSU female student workers and as a result has suffered unimaginable retaliation sanctioned by the LSU Board of Supervisors."
Prior to the news breaking of the impending lawsuit, Lewis spoke with USA Today's Kenny Jacoby about her experiences in the department, like how Miles, executive deputy athletic director Verge Ausberry and senior associate athletic director Miriam Segar "tormented her" after she reported the allegations against the former head coach.
"Lewis said Miles harassed and undermined her for years, trying to sexualize the group of student workers she supervised," Jacoby wrote. "Ausberry verbally abused her, she said, and he and Segar lied to an LSU Title IX investigator to get her in trouble."
Lewis revealed that the retaliation still continues to this day.
”They get to lie, and they get to admit that they lied, and come back to work,” Lewis said on a Zoom call with USA Today. “I mean, it’s about—we have to set a standard there, that’s all.”
She also alleged that Miles "repeatedly pressured [her] to replace Black student workers on her recruiting staff with blond women or light-skinned Black women whom he considered prettier."
While she refused, Lewis said that she was allegedly pressured by others later to comply with Miles's requests.
“The Husch Blackwell Report (the Husch Report) documented how LSU orchestrated a retaliation against Ms. Lewis, including the mental breakdown and ongoing mental trauma she suffered as a result. Once LSU could not hush Ms. Lewis, they laid the groundwork for perpetual retaliation and hostility to render her embarrassed, isolated and invisible,” her attorneys said to WAFB.
LSU’s failure to comply with Title IX requirements to report and investigate incidents of sexual misconduct come after the school released the Husch Blackwell report. This document included sexual misconduct allegations against former head football coach Miles, who recently parted ways with Kansas amid the fallout.
LSU suspended Ausberry and Segar for 30 and 21 days without pay, respectively, after the report was published.
Miles was previously banned from being alone with female students following the 2013 sexual harassment investigation, according to the original internal report released by LSU. The initial report alleged Miles texted woman student workers on a burner phone, drove them alone to his condo and kissed a student on at least one occasion. Miles, who was directly involved with hiring student employees, reportedly "made it clear that he wanted these employees to have a certain 'look' (attractive, blond, fit)." Employees at the time who did not fit the description were to be given fewer hours or fired, according to the report.
Husch Blackwell found that the LSU athletic department did not properly respond to the accounts about Miles. The law firm's report said that former athletic director Joe Alleva recommended Miles be fired for cause in 2013, citing "insubordination, inappropriate behavior, putting the university, athletic dept. and football program at great risk."
The firm's report also revealed that Lewis was "the only person in the entire University who has ever been disciplined in any form for failing to make a report" under proper Title IX guidelines.
“At trial we intend to prove LSU acted more like a crime syndicate than the flagship university of our state when it intentionally set out to destroy the professional career of one of the most successful black women in NCAA sports,” Attorney Bridgett Brown said to WAFB.