Rutgers Official Accused of Creating Hostile Workplace | Athletic Business

Rutgers Official Accused of Creating Hostile Workplace

A Rutgers University senior associate athletic director has been accused of creating a toxic, abusive workplace environment within the New Jersey university’s athletic department.

According to NJ Advance Media, two formal complaints have been made against Michael Szul, Rutgers’ senior associate athletic director for finance, administration and planning. The complaints have been filed separately with Rutgers’ human resources department since Szul took on the position in May 2017, with a racial discrimination complaint being filed in July 2017 and a hostile work environment complaint in July 2018.

“Anyone who he didn’t see at his level that he thought he could bully, he bullied,” a source told NJ Advance Media. “Every single person below him had enough issues that they’ve had to go to (Rutgers) administration about him.”

Rutgers senior vice president for external affairs Peter McDonough said both complaints were investigated thoroughly and “found to be meritless.”

“The allegations were found to not be a hostile work environment, nor to amount to racial discrimination,” McDonough said, adding that the employee who filed the racial discrimination complaint had been laid off during a reorganization due to his short tenure in the department. “Every effort has been made here to improve the working relationship between Mr. Szul and others in the department.”

“There’s a question about whether that reorganization was done with an intention to target an African American employee and promote and retain Caucasian employees who were doing the same work at the same time,” said Lucye Millerand, executive vice president for the union of Rutgers administrations. “The department at Rutgers is given a hell of a lot of autonomy, athletics even more so. So, favoritism slips in, we feel, because there is so much autonomy in management.”

NJ Advance Media interviewed four former and two current employees that claim Szul’s behavior is ongoing, and that Rutgers’ athletics department regularly allows inappropriate behavior to go unchecked.

One source told NJ Advance Media that, in 2017, Szul threw paperwork in the face of a female employee and walked away.

“I love the team that I work with, they are all great people and together we are striving to bring positive changes to an already outstanding athletics program,” Szul said last week when asked about the incident.

According to NJ Advance Media, Rutgers paid $15,500 in September 2018 for outside consultants to improve the working relationship between Szul and his staff. Szul was also accused of gender discrimination by a former employee when he worked at West Virginia University, according to a Dominion Post story. He was eventually cleared of the West Virginia allegations, as the statute of limitations had expired.

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