A senior aide to Democratic California Sen. Kamala Harris resigned yesterday after a local publication began asking questions about a sexual harassment lawsuit involving the aide brought forth against the California Department of Justice in 2016.
According to a report from the Sacramento Bee published Wednesday, Larry Wallace resigned later that day after the newspaper asked Harris’ office about a $400,000 settlement in a harassment and retaliation lawsuit involving Wallace that was reached in May 2017. Harris’ successor, Xavier Becerra, settled the suit. At the time of its settlement, Wallace had started working for Harris’ Senate office in Sacramento.
In December 2016, while Harris was still California attorney general but preparing to be sworn in as a U.S. senator, Wallace’s former executive assistant, Danielle Hartley, sued the Department of Justice. In the lawsuit, Hartley accused Wallace of “‘gender harassment’ and other demeaning behavior,” according to the Bee. The complaint also said she had “concerns she was being harassed and demeaned due to her gender.”
At the time Hartley brought the suit, Wallace was director of the Division of Law Enforcement under Harris’ attorney general office. Wallace, a former Oakland police detective, had also worked for Harris when she was San Francisco’s district attorney.
In the lawsuit, Hartley said Wallace would ask her to crawl under his desk to change the paper in his printer on a daily basis, often while sitting at his desk or while other male executives in the department were present. When she asked Wallace to move the printer so she wouldn’t have to crawl under his desk in dresses and skirts, the suit states, Wallace refused.
The suit continues:
In addition. Hartley’s meaningful tasks were taken away and she was given the responsibility of booking flights for Wallace’s children, washing Wallace’s car, moving his car to the garage, and performing maintenance on his car. When Hartley would return from running these and other personal errands, co-workers would make hostile comments to her including, ‘Are you walking the walk of shame?’ DOJ was aware of Hartley’s co-workers practice of making these derogatory and discriminatory statements of Hartley but refused to correct them.
After Hartley reported the harassment to a supervisor, the suit says, she became a target for retaliation, alleging that, at one point, she was explicitly asked to “quit her job and seek employment elsewhere.”
In May 2017, after Becerra had responded months earlier to Hartley’s suit by denying her claims and blaming her for not taking further steps to report the harassment, the department settled the suit for $400,000 while still denying her claims. Although Harris employed Wallace through multiple positions, her office told the Bee it was “unaware of this issue.”
“We were unaware of this issue and take accusations of harassment extremely seriously,” a spokeswoman for Harris said in a statement to Politico Wednesday night. “This evening, Mr. Wallace offered his resignation to the senator and she accepted it.”
Amanda Renteria, who was Becerra’s chief of operations and signed off on the settlement at the time, told the Bee she didn’t know if Wallace left his DOJ post for Harris’ Senate office because of the lawsuit, although she said most people connected to the senator left to work for her.