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Aide to Sen. Kamala Harris resigns after harassment settlement surfaces

Alexei Koseff, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in News & Features

The lawsuit describes that Hartley was "set up to fail," micromanaged 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."

Patterson did not return a message requesting comment.

Two days before Christmas 2014, the lawsuit states, Hartley was involuntarily transferred to another bureau within the state Department of Justice. She then began to search for a job outside the department, according to the lawsuit, but she was ultimately unsuccessful because the "stress from all of the harassment" took a toll on her physical and mental health.

Twice, the lawsuit states, Hartley took a state exam for a new classification and scored a 95, but she was not considered either time for the promotion.

Hartley said in the lawsuit that she began suffering from panic attacks and depression, and that in March 2016, she developed a pinched nerve in her arm that required surgery. She had the surgery in September, according to the lawsuit, around which time she also filed a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. When she sued two months later, Hartley was still out on medical leave because the Department of Justice has "chosen to not accommodate her."

Through her attorney, Hartley declined to comment on the case.

In an answer to the lawsuit filed a month later, the department denied "generally and specifically each and every allegation contained in the Complaint."

Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who by then had been appointed to succeed Harris, and two of this deputies said the department took "reasonable steps to prevent and correct workplace harassment" by instituting procedures for harassment and training Harley on the policy.

Hartley "unreasonably failed to utilize the procedures during the period of time, and after, the alleged harassment or discrimination was occurring," Becerra wrote. "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."

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But on May 16, 2017, the department settled with Hartley for $400,000. It continued to deny her claims.

As part of the settlement, Hartley resigned her position and agreed not to seek employment with the Department of Justice again. She also agreed to a nondisclosure clause, forbidding her from discussing the settlement amount or alerting the media to the agreement.

Amanda Renteria, who worked as Becerra's chief of operations before mounting a bid for California governor earlier this year, signed off on the settlement.

She said Wednesday that she did not remember the details of the case, which was a holdover from before she arrived at the department in March 2017. She did not know whether Wallace's departure to work on Harris' Senate staff had anything to do with the lawsuit.

"Most folks that were connected to Harris went with Harris," Renteria said.

(c)2018 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)

Visit The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.) at www.sacbee.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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