4th lawsuit filed against JSU athletics director
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The athletics director of Jackson State University is now facing four federal lawsuits related to allegations that she sexually harassed an assistant and fired other employees who supported the woman.
The first lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in August by Lolita Ward, who says Athletic Director Vivian Fuller subjected her to inappropriate comments, gestures and touching in 2011.
The lawsuit claims Ward was subjected to a hostile work environment and fired in October 2011 after rejecting the advances.
The lawsuit says the harassment began soon after Fuller was hired by the university in July 2011.
The university denies the allegations.
The most recent lawsuit was filed Monday on behalf of Jerry Lewis, another former assistant who says he was treated poorly at work and fired after witnessing the alleged harassment.
Lewis' lawsuit says he was in the room on Aug. 15, 2011, when Fuller "waggled" or "jiggled" her tongue at Ward in a sexually inappropriate manner. He eventually reported it to JSU officials and was later fired, the lawsuit said.
Lawsuits also have been filed on behalf of two other former JSU employees who said they were fired for participating in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation or for supporting Ward.
All four lawsuits were filed by the same lawyer, Rogen Chhabra, in U.S. District Court in Jackson. Fuller, JSU President Carolyn Myers and the university are named as defendants.
LaToya Merritt, a lawyer for the defendants, had no comment when contacted Wednesday by The Associated Press. Fuller did not immediately respond to a telephone message.
JSU spokesman Eric Stringfellow said the school denies the allegations "and will vigorously defend the university's good name."
The university has said in court documents that the EEOC investigated Ward's allegations and found no evidence to support her claims.
Chhabra said it's not unusual for the EEOC to decide not to join in a lawsuit. He said the EEOC's findings don't mean harassment didn't take place.
"I might come to your house and look for your guns and walk out and say you didn't have any guns. That doesn't mean you don't have any guns. That just means I didn't find any," Chhabra said Wednesday in a telephone interview.
Chhabra said he is likely to file more lawsuits on behalf of other employees who were fired, though he would not say how many or give their names.
Associated Press Sports Writer David Brandt contributed to this report.