Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., expressed surprise and frustration when reports first surfaced last week that a longtime aide had settled allegations of gender discrimination last year — attributing her lack of awareness to a “breakdown” in communication.
But the California Department of Justice received notification of the suit three months before Harris left her position as state attorney general, according to a new report.
According to a lawsuit, Harris confidante Larry Wallace demeaned and retaliated against Danielle Hartley when she worked as his executive assistant at the state Department of Justice where Harris served as top official as attorney general.
In early October 2016, the agency received a right-to-sue complaint alleging “discrimination, harassment, retaliation, demotion,” the Sacramento Bee reported. The suit was eventually filed just days before Harris vacated her position as attorney general and assumed her seat in the Senate in January 2017.
The litigants settled in May 2017. Wallace paid $400,000.
Shortly after being hired in 2011 to be Wallace’s assistant, “Hartley had concerns she was being harassed and demeaned due to her gender,” the lawsuit says. Wallace allegedly demanded Hartley crawl under his desk on a daily basis to add paper to the printer there and change its ink — often in front of other male executives from his division.
Hartley asked Wallace to move the printer so she would not have to crawl under his desk in skirts and shorts, the lawsuit states, but he refused.
The lawsuit also alleges Wallace stripped Hartley of her professional duties, asking her to book flights for his children and wash his car for him instead — tasks that raised eyebrows among her coworkers, who made snide remarks to her.
Harris would eventually hire Wallace to a position in her district office. He resigned that job when the Sacramento Bee first reported details of the suit last week.
It is unclear whether Wallace’s departure could imperil Harris’ 2020 ambitions.
Harris has said she will decide over the holidays whether she will run for president in 2020.
Griffin Connolly contributed to this report.
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