Cal­i­for­nia pays $350,000 to set­tle state Se­nate com­plaint

Porterville Recorder - - RECORD - By DON THOMP­SON

SACRA­MENTO — Cal­i­for­nia's state Se­nate has agreed to a $350,000 set­tle­ment with a for­mer em­ployee who says the Se­nate failed to ac­com­mo­date her needs and later fired her af­ter she said an Assem­bly em­ployee raped her, of­fi­cials said Wed­nes­day.

Lizelda Lopez, a spokes­woman for Demo­cratic Se­nate Pres­i­dent Pro Tem Toni Atkins of San Diego, con­firmed the set­tle­ment af­ter it was first re­ported by the Los An­ge­les Times.

The set­tle­ment paid from tax dol­lars is at least dou­ble any other re­cently re­ported leg­isla­tive pay­out.

The Leg­is­la­ture has faced scru­tiny over the last year over its han­dling of sex­ual mis­con­duct com­plaints as part of the #Me­too move­ment that claimed the ca­reers of sev­eral law­mak­ers. Los An­ge­les Demo­cratic As­sem­bly­men Raul Bo­cane­gra and Matt Dabab­neh and Sen. Tony Men­doza, a Demo­crat from Arte­sia, all re­signed their seats. Sev­eral oth­ers have faced other sanc­tions in un­re­lated cases.

Lawyer Micha Star Lib­erty filed the law­suit in May against the Se­nate and mul­ti­ple Se­nate em­ploy­ees on be­half of the un­named vic­tim, say­ing the Se­nate did not ap­pro­pri­ately ac­com­mo­date the woman's phys­i­cal and emo­tional dis­tress fol­low­ing the rape and un­fairly fired her.

The al­leged rape oc­curred in De­cem­ber 2016 and was re­ported to po­lice, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit. The Assem­bly hired out­side lawyers to con­duct an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and did not sub­stan­ti­ate the al­le­ga­tion, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit. It does not ap­pear the po­lice filed charges.

The law­suit al­leges the woman was raped by an Assem­bly em­ployee at a so­cial event fol­low­ing work hours.

Be­tween De­cem­ber 2016 and Septem­ber 2017, the woman asked to come into work late or to miss work on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, and her su­per­vi­sors cleared the re­quest ev­ery time. She was di­ag­nosed with post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions and suf­fered from anx­i­ety and trou­ble sleep­ing, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

The woman says the Se­nate failed to ac­com­mo­date her re­quest to give her per­pe­tra­tor a new park­ing space far from hers and to ban him from the Se­nate floor, both of which she said were nec­es­sary to limit her emo­tional dis­tress.

The woman said she was fired in Septem­ber 2017 for mi­nor work per­for­mance is­sues. She be­lieves the fir­ing re­lated to her re­quests for ac­com­mo­da­tion. She had not pre­vi­ously been in­formed that she was at risk of los­ing her job, she said, and her re­quest to come to work late or leave early were never de­nied by su­per­vi­sors.

She had worked for Demo­cratic Sen. Bob Wieck­owski of Fre­mont, ac­cord­ing to the Times and The Sacra­mento Bee. His of­fice de­clined com­ment and re­ferred calls to the Se­nate's hu­man re­sources de­part­ment. Lib­erty, the vic­tim's lawyer, did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

"The re­sult was ac­cept­able to both sides and we are glad — for all par­ties — to move on with the busi­ness of the state," Atkins said in a state­ment.

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