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THE Nooner for January 4, 2018
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I undoubtedly will piss some people off today, but hang in there and send me feedback before you simply delete. Some crap needs to be said and I appreciate subscribers who let me do so. But, we're going to have a little sexual harassment in the training today...
The first day back after the interim is usually quiet. Yesterday was anything but. The Assembly came in, newly elected member Wendy Carrillo received and Speaker Anthony Rendon announced a variety of leadership changes, both for the house and committees to adjust for the departure of three members--Raul Bocanegra, Matt Dababneh, and Sebastian Ridley-Thomas. Rendon gave an impassioned statement about a priority of the house to address the issue of harassment in the workplace and then the house adjourned.
But, Menozan there was the Senate. To start, after a four-hour Democratic Caucus (unheard of on the first day in January), Senator Tony Mendoza spoke to the floor to announce that he would take a leave of absence for the month of January while investigators look into the allegations that he made inappropriate advances toward the Senate fellow assigned to his office.
From what I've gathered from sources, the long caucus basically delivered a message to Mendoza--take a paid leave of absence or you will be suspended without pay, which Senator Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) was ready to put on the table. Mendoza's fellow Democrats basically told him that he couldn't force them to vote on that motion. Mendoza, facing re-election this year, was reluctant to take any step to suggest any wrong-doing, but eventually gave in.
He announced that he wants an expeditious investigation and will return on February 1 regardless.
But, he also declared his innocence because there was no "inappropriate bodily contact." We're talking clueless here. Workplace harassment--in the office or at a hotel on a junket--does not mean physical contact. It's a spectrum from harassment to rape. Harassment can be repeatedly making comments about clothing ("I love how that dress accentuates your curves") or physical characteristics ("nice ass, babe") or, in Mendoza's case, asking an employee to a hotel room.
I sure as hell know that all members of the Legislature--mostly men--understand a basic premise taught in the sexual harassment seminar. It's not just about physical contact. Senator Mendoza just blemished the institution in an unforgiveable way, and it's in news stories across the country.
Because I had the awesome Floyd Feeney for criminal procedure at King Hall, I am evangelist about due process. That said, as we'd say on the family's very rustic ranch with longhorns in Texas, the "pucky" keeps getting deeper.
I regrettably didn't take Marty West's class in sex discrimination in law school, but I know enough from her and others that there are three types.
All are wrong. Period.
In an employment context, there is no legal definition of "inappropriate bodily context." Lawmakers who passed the law and the mandatory 2-hour training should know that.
The Legislature needs to answer the employer-employee relationship conundrum. We all know that, unless you're a vulnerable legislator, you choose your own staff. Vulnerables are assigned "battle" staff. Everyone else assumes they work they work for a member. Legally, that's not the case.
Sorry, Senator Mendoza, but you are in the headlines. Your staff has been employed by the Senate Rules Committee. So, if allegations prove true, is it you or the Senate that is the employer? Legally, history has gone to the Rules Committee. That's a big problem. Individual misbehaving members can count on free transportation from a nightclub and any liability of what happened transferred to the state government.
I think my capital-area career may be done. I might be able to caddy a few holes, but can I call an audible?
Meanwhile, a law firm I have always had in high respect has been exposed. With allegations to the Fair Employment and Housing Agency (first step to lawsuit) by Alicia Lewis for retaliatority termination after she participated in the effort by Capitol-area women to talk about harassment, Wilke Fleury may be on its death knell.
I don't know the circumstances of the situation. Let me make that clear.
But, in this environment, terminating a woman of color when you have 12 partners, all are men (and all but one white) and only four of your lawyers are women, you have huge problems. Your clients will be shopping elsewhere.
In comparison, Sacramento's largest firm--Downey Brand--has 43 partners, 15 of whom are women. Major progress in the legal profession needs to be made, but kudos for being better than most. Wilke Fleury also has a reputation of not supporting minority bar associations, unlike most big firms with a Sacramento presence.
0/12 in a gender partnership ratio is totally unacceptable, and this comes from a white guy. I get that a law firm can be lilly white, but a law/lobbying firm can't present this face. I've seen big law firms brought down for less, and this could be the end of Wilke Fleury without changes. Civil damages or a settlement (more likely) will completely disrupt the firm's finances and any junior PR geek would have warned them of it.
Again, I have no factual knowledge in the case and no fiduciary interest in it, but comment only on the publicly available information. This won't go to trial.
AD54 (Culver City): Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas resigned for "medical reasons." I have three legit sources with specific sexual misbehavior instances that have been filed as harassment complaints, which are sealed under the Assembly Rules Committee. Again, any accused deserve their day in court, but then again, sexual harassment is not judiciable in most cases.
#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Phyliss Chow!
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