Ex-employee sues USC, executives for sexual harassment

Former Coliseum employee Rachel Lamb is suing USC and some of her co-workers for sexual harassment.
(Daily Trojan file photo)

A former University employee filed a suit July 5 against USC and a University Auxiliary Services executive, saying she was subjected to a hostile work environment “of crude, male-dominated culture,” that felt “more liken [sic] a frat house than a professional office environment,” according to the lawsuit.

Rachel Lamb said she endured sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, sexual battery, retaliation in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act and intentional infliction of emotional distress from her immediate boss, Joe Furin, when she worked as an hourly employee at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum from September 2016 to April 2019. 

She filed the suit against the University and Vice President of Auxiliary Services Daniel Stimmler in L.A. Superior Court.

The lawsuit alleges that Furin fostered a hostile and misogynistic work environment where he and upper management officials “failed to hold male employees accountable for unprofessional behavior.”

When asked for comment, Stimmler referred the Daily Trojan to University Media Relations. The University wrote in a statement that it could not comment on the specific case due to ongoing litigation but said that it is taking the allegations seriously.

“The university was unaware of these allegations until the lawsuit,” the statement read. “Because the litigation is in an early stage, we are unable to discuss details about the case. But we are thoroughly investigating and look forward to defending the matter. The university treats any and all allegations with great care and is deeply committed to maintaining an environment that is free from harassment.”

At her first work event, a USC football game, Lamb was informed that they were present at the hospitality suite to serve and network with clients, but her coworkers and bosses were dressed casually and inappropriately drinking and talking among themselves, the lawsuit read. 

According to the suit, this atmosphere of unprofessionalism was representative of the work events throughout her employment. 

During her first week on the job, Lamb found that both director of sales Anastasia Johnson and chief business development officer Mitch Huberman were underqualified and incapable of performing their basic job responsibilities — neither could operate without daily supervision, and Huberman was “computer illiterate,” the suit read. Lamb reported this to Furin who then delegated their responsibilities to her, it said.  

Lamb had to serve as an assistant to Huberman and alleges she spent her time doing his direct work. But, despite taking on these responsibilities, she still made the same hourly wage, the suit read. 

During this time, Lamb frequently felt that her personal space was violated and that Huberman was making unwelcome advances — he would offer her alcohol from his personal collection. The suit alleges that the hostility increased after she reported these incidents to her boss. 

“Huberman would invite Lamb to his office under the premise of troubleshooting his computer and then would offer her alcohol from his collection behind his desk, wanting to sit and talk,” the suit read. “She informed Furin about these incidents but Furin did nothing to address the situation.”

According to the suit, Lamb met with Furin several times to discuss her concerns regarding her uncompensated workload, and Furin reportedly assured her that she would be promoted and compensated in time. 

Eventually, Lamb’s position was reclassified to special projects administrator. But because Lamb was now a salaried employee, she could no longer collect overtime pay for the extra work she was doing, the suit read.

The suit also alleges that Stimmler “engaged in and tacitly condoned sexually harassing and discriminating conduct toward Lamb” and other employees. 

Stimmler became flirtatious with Lamb, according to the suit, and by her third year working for him, his actions increased from “tight hugs and grabs around the waist to sexual assault and battery.” 

On occasion, Stimmler, often while allegedly drunk, would catch Lamb off guard and kiss her on the mouth without consent and disregard her protests, the suit read. Stimmler also allegedly made jokes at Lamb’s expense, commenting on Lamb’s appearance as well as his own marital status. 

During this time, the suit said Lamb began experiencing health issues, including symptoms of nausea, anxiety, heart palpitations and chest pain. 

“Lamb sought medical and psychiatric treatment … [and] met with Furin and Human Resources on multiple occasions to disclose her medical conditions,” it read.  “[They] failed to respond to Lamb’s requests for administrative action and support, which resulted in her ongoing illnesses that persisted until her employment terminated.”

The suit alleges that Lamb believes Furin and Stimmler “reclassified her position in retaliation for her not going along with the fraternity-like culture of the workplace that eventually led to Lamb’s sexual assault and battery.”

 The case’s next hearing date has not been set. 

This article was updated on Aug. 27 at 9 a.m. to include the latest statement from the University regarding the lawsuit.