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Bryant Whitten, LLP

Man leaves California Senator's office after allegations surface

A man who was until recently working as a top aide to Senator Kamala Harris, the junior Senator from California, recently resigned after it came to light that the state had to pay a settlement of $400,000 on his behalf.

The settlement was to resolve sexual harassment claims filed by one of the man's employees while he worked for the California Department of Justice. The suit was filed right at the end of Senator Harris's tenure as the Attorney General of California, who also is the head of the California Department of Justice. The man was a senior official in the Department.

According to the victim's reports, the man started harassing the alleged victim in 2011. The woman described a pattern of behavior in which the man put his computer printer on the floor under his desk.

He expected the woman to bend over to replenish the paper every work day, and he often made this request in the presence of other male leadership in the office as well as himself. When she asked that the printer be moved, the man declined the request. The woman also said that her complaints were met with adverse employments actions.

For its part, the Department of Justice has declined to comment on the settlement, describing it as a personnel matter. Senator Harris's office denied the Senator knew about the case until very recently, right around the time the man resigned.

This case illustrates a couple of important points. First, sexual harassment can happen anywhere, even among those who are charged with enforcing this state's laws. Second, it only serves to reinforce that naughty or subtly degrading behavior is not acceptable or just part of a male-dominated culture. It is unacceptable and illegal, and Fresno victims are entitled to compensation for the damages they suffer.

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