A longtime staffer for California Democratic Senator Kamala Harris resigned on Wednesday after a harassment and retaliation settlement came to light from his time working in California’s Department of Justice for then-Attorney General Harris.
The Sacramento Bee reports that Larry Wallace, who worked as the director of the Division of Law Enforcement, “was accused by his former executive assistant in December 2016 of ‘gender harassment’ and other demeaning behavior, including frequently asking her to crawl under his desk to change the paper in his printer.”
The lawsuit, which was filed at the very end of 2016, was settled in May 2017 after Wallace transitioned to work for Harris in her new role as a U.S. Senator.
Harris claims she had no knowledge of the incident that happened on her staff.
“We were unaware of this issue and take accusations of harassment extremely seriously. This evening, Mr. Wallace offered his resignation to the senator and she accepted it,” Harris spokeswoman Lily Adams told The Sacramento Bee an email.
The accuser, Danielle Hartley, said in her lawsuit that she was brought on to be Wallace’s assistant and that she “had concerns she was being harassed and demeaned due to her gender.”
Hartley’s lawsuit claims that Wallace put his printer on the floor under his desk and ordered her to service the printer on a daily basis.
Hartley claims that she asked Wallace to move the printer to a different spot in the office so she wouldn’t have to crawl under the desk, while he was sitting there, to service the printer while she was wearing “dresses and skirts.”
Wallace allegedly refused to honor Hartley’s request and continued to force her to “replace the paper or ink” on a daily basis, sometimes in front of other men from around the department. The Sacramento Bee adds:
Hartley also complained in the lawsuit that Wallace took away her “meaningful tasks” and put her in charge of running personal errands instead, including booking flights for Wallace’s children and washing and performing maintenance on his car. When she would return from these assignments, the lawsuit states, “co-workers would make hostile comments to her including, ‘Are you walking the walk of shame?'”
According to the lawsuit, Hartley eventually informed her supervisor, Shannon Patterson, of the harassment and asked for help. “Hartley observed Patterson enter Wallace’s office and met with him behind closed doors,” the lawsuit states, but after that, she began to experience retaliation.
The lawsuit describes that Hartley was “set up to fail,” micro-managed by Patterson, investigated by internal affairs on a “fabricated charge” for which she was never informed of the outcome, and “told she should quit her job and seek employment elsewhere.”
Hartley says she was involuntarily transferred to another bureau within California’s DOJ as she started to search for a new job outside the department but claims that she was unsuccessful due to stress from the workplace environment which eventually led to health problems.
Harris’ successor, Xavier Becerra, claims that Hartley “unreasonably failed to utilize the procedures during the period of time, and after, the alleged harassment or discrimination was occurring. Had Plaintiff taken reasonable effort to utilize these procedures Plaintiff’s alleged harm, injury or damages would have been avoided, in whole or in part.”
Despite denying her claims, the department settled with Hartley for $400,000.