San Jose State University Settled With Fired Whistleblower, Steve O’Brien for $560,000, After Alleging Cover-Ups and Retaliation Related to Sex Abuse Scandal


Steve O’Brien, the former second in command of the university’s Athletics Department, resolved his civil lawsuit against San Jose State University (“SJSU”). O’Brien alleged that top SJSU officials, including the athletic director and president, engaged in a pattern of covering up sexual misconduct and retaliating against those who reported it. The California State University will pay $560,000 on behalf of SJSU and former Athletic Director Marie Tuite to resolve O’Brien’s claims.

O’Brien was fired on March 3, 2020. He alleged his termination was in retaliation for preserving the integrity of an active investigation into alleged sexual assaults by Scott Shaw, SJSU’s former Director of Sports Medicine and Head Athletic Trainer. Over a decade ago, Shaw was accused of sexually fondling more than a dozen female student-athletes. In 2009 the University investigated and quietly cleared Shaw of all wrongdoing. But approximately eight years later, these athletes and others reported to Sage Hopkins, SJSU’s women’s swimming and diving coach, that Shaw’s abuse was ongoing and that the University’s prior investigation was insufficient. O’Brien was fired for taking the side of Hopkins and the victimized women.
After O’Brien filed his complaint, Marie Tuite left her position as Athletic Director at SJSU, Mary Papazian stepped down from her role as SJSU President, and the Department of Justice found SJSU violated Title IX and specifically retaliated against Mr. O’Brien for his actions.

Tamarah Prevost, a partner at the Burlingame firm of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, said:

“Although his lawsuit is now over, Steve O’Brien continues to stand in solidarity with the female student-athlete victims and whistleblower Sage Hopkins who courageously advocated for them. His case exemplifies the integrity required to stand up for what is right, regardless of the consequences.”

“This settlement comes on the heels of the Department of Justice investigation and findings, which already fully vindicated our client and validated his claims. We are extremely pleased with this resolution.”

Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy engages exclusively in litigation and trials and has earned a national reputation for its dedication to prosecuting or defending socially just actions. To learn more about the firm, visit

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