PULLMAN – An internal investigation by Washington State University has found that over a three-year period, a former athletics administrator violated the school’s Title IX policies by making inappropriate comments in the workplace and demeaning employees because of their gender.
John E. Lucier, a former associate athletic director of compliance who resigned last year after taking a $31,000 settlement, harassed and discriminated against two athletic department employees, according to an investigative report obtained by the Daily Evergreen, WSU’s student-run newspaper. The Office of Equal Opportunity found Lucier violated a WSU policy prohibiting discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, called Executive Policy 15.
Multiple witnesses – most of them women – told investigators Lucier’s behavior made them feel uncomfortable or intimidated.
Three employees approached the athletics department Title IX office to report Lucier’s behavior in September 2016, before the investigation began in October 2016. One employee said she had previously approached Ken Casavant, Lucier’s supervisor and now retired faculty athletics representative, on two occasions. The second time she approached Casavant, she said Lucier’s behavior escalated.
One of the complainants told investigators Lucier would use expletive terms for female genitalia in her presence, yell at her multiple times a day and belittle her to the point that she was insecure about her competency, an account that several other witnesses in the report confirmed.
Witnesses also described incidents in which Lucier made derogatory comments about women’s sports, such as “Why do we have female sports like soccer?” A witness recalled Lucier saying he did not want to hire women, and making demeaning comments about female administrators.
Lucier denied these allegations to investigators, saying instead a female complainant was the one who wanted to hire men. He did not respond to a request for comment and the complainants declined to comment.
One employee told investigators that she was afraid to come forward because she feared Lucier would be protected by his relationship with senior athletic department leadership, like then-Athletic Director Bill Moos and then-Deputy Athletic Director Mike Marlow. She said she didn’t make the decision to come forward “lightly,” but “three years is enough.”
Moos, who now directs athletics at the University of Nebraska, declined to comment. Marlow, who is now vice president of athletics at Northern Arizona University, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Multiple witnesses in the report described Lucier as having “broken” relationships with several female employees in the athletic department and said they were intimidated by him. Some female coaching staff described difficulties dealing with Lucier, and one coach said she preferred to send male coaching staff to discuss issues because she didn’t like interacting with him. Several women interviewed by investigators described Lucier leaving unprofessional voicemails or emails and yelling at them in person.
One employee told an interviewer she was used to hearing “locker room talk” over the course of her career in athletics, but she had “never felt threatened or intimidated” until her interactions with Lucier.
A female employee told investigators Lucier told her on multiple occasions, “we need to be loyal” and “I can’t have people running to HR every time I drop an f-bomb or scream and yell.”
In the report, Lucier said that that conversation may have occurred, but that it was only one time during a job interview and he did not talk about screaming or yelling. He told investigators he “wanted her to understand the way I am,” because he is “rough around the edges.”
He said the employee who filed the complaint against him should have known that “this might not be the right job” for her if she could not handle his behavior.
When investigators asked him about his behavior, Lucier said his language was “salty” and that he had not yelled at employees, only raised his voice.
When investigators interviewed Moos, he said the allegations against Lucier were surprising and seemed “out of character.” He said he was not aware of any issues with Lucier’s behavior until the formal complaint was filed.
During the investigation, Marlow accused one of the complainants of interfering with the investigation. He told investigators that one complainant had discussed the investigation with a person he knew, but could not name, and that the complainant was “playing the victim” during the conversation. Investigators did not find evidence to substantiate his claims.
At least one complainant also stated the management style of Casavant, Lucier’s supervisor, didn’t leave staff members feeling “empowered to go get help.”
A second investigation, into Casavant’s conduct, was launched while the investigation into Lucier was still ongoing. Casavant told the Daily Evergreen that the investigation wasn’t for discrimination or harassment, but declined to comment further on the investigation.
According to the investigation report, Casavant did discuss employees’ complaints with Lucier and the investigators found there was sufficient evidence to conclude that Lucier was “on notice” for his behaviors and that he created a “hostile work environment.”
After the investigation concluded, the university signed a settlement with Lucier and he agreed never again to apply for or accept a position at WSU. The agreement, which was signed by Provost Dan Bernardo, Moos, WSU Attorney General Danielle Hess and Lucier, resolved “all matters arising from [Lucier’s] entire relationship, employment or otherwise, with WSU.”
The university bought out the rest of Lucier’s contract period for $31,000.
Lucier started at WSU as an associate athletic director of compliance in February 2013 and resigned in April 2017. He previously worked for Fresno State University and the University of Oregon.
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