Jackson State University, located in sunny Alabama, has faced a different type of heat recently, this time in the courtroom. The Jackson State Director of Athletics, Dr. Vivian Fuller, has been accused of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment. To date there have been six separate plaintiffs who have come forward alleging that Dr. Fuller subjected them to one of the two. Four of these lawsuits have already been dismissed. One of plaintiffs, however, not only had their day in court, but also convinced the jury that Dr. Fuller was liable. This case, filed by Frederick L. Robinson, a former director of sports medicine at Jackson State, alleged that Dr. Fuller retaliated against him for testifying in another sexual harassment claim.
The First Claim
Dr. Fuller first found herself in court after Lolita Ward filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in August 2013. Ms. Ward claimed, in her suit, that she went to university officials for help in dealing with Dr. Fullers behavior. After her complaint she was fired. Her lawsuit alleged that Dr. Fuller looked down Wards shirt and made some sexually provocative gestures with her tongue. She also claims that Dr. Fuller made a sexually suggestive comment about Wards legs. Initially Jackson State released a statement claiming that the case was without merit and that The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated the allegations and determined it was unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes. The case was dismissed in March of 2014. United States District Judge William H. Barbour Jr. stated that Ward failed to show that there exists genuine issue of material fact with respect to any of the claims alleged. The United States 5th Circuit Court of appeals will hear oral arguments on the appeal on February 5th.
Although the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission did not find that Ms. Wards complaints against Dr. Fuller merited a finding of sexual assault, they did hold hearings to come to that conclusion. During this hearing, one of Fullers more important employees, Frederick Robinson, testified on behalf of Ms. Wade. A short two months later he was fired. According to Robinsons attorney, Jim Waide, He testified at an EEOC hearing concerning an allegation of homosexual harassment that a school secretary had made against the athletic director, Vivian Fuller…He was fired about two months after he gave his statement to the EEOC. Waide also explained that the university was short-staffed when it came to qualified trainers so it was detrimental to the athletes to get rid of him. Last week, Robinson won his lawsuit against Dr. Fuller and was awarded more than $100,000 in damages. University president Dr. Carolyn Meyers expressed her full support for Fuller and he has gone on to work as a trainer with the NFL.
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