San Jose State University (SJSU) recently agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging a coverup of sexual abuse allegations. The claimant was a whistleblower who targeted the suit against the university and former athletic director Marie Tuite.
The settlement value was $560,000.
In the suit, whistleblower Steve O’Brien claimed the university fired him because he opposed Tuite’s alleged retaliation against staff members to had concerns about the school’s athletic program, specifically relating to investigations of sex abuse against former Director of Sports Medicine Scott Shaw. Shaw was under investigation for accusations of sexually assaulting more than a dozen female SJSU athletes.
That investigation resulted in a $1.6 million settlement paid out to victims via the U.S. Department of Justice.
O’Brien was serving as the university’s deputy director of the athletic department, but was fired on March 3, 2020. He claimed multiple senior university officials, including Tuite and university president Mary Papazian, aimed to cover up the sexual misconduct and would retaliate against those who reported it. Papazian ultimately resigned at the end of 2021 amid criticism of her handling of the case.
The first allegations against Shaw occurred in 2009, but those allegations were ignored and Shaw continued working for the university until his 2020 resignation. Shaw’s resignation came four years into Papazian’s tenure as president and a year into the investigation against him.
O’Brien’s attorney said the settlement, combined with the DOJ’s own investigation and findings, “fully vindicated” him and “validated his claims.”
If you become aware of illegal whistleblower retaliation within your workplace, you have the right to speak up and report the wrongdoing without fear of reprisal. For more information about the best strategies to employ when beginning a whistleblower claim, contact an experienced lawyer at Kardell Law Group with any questions you have.