Public pressure for more transparency created by the Me Too movement has brought to light investigations of inappropriate behavior among lawmakers at the California Legislature. With internal workplace misconduct investigations conducted at the State Senate or Assembly now available to reporters, voters in Los Angeles County in South California have learned about the inappropriate behavior of a Democrat assemblywoman for Los Angeles and her chief of staff. Both of them have received formal letters rebuking them for hugging, kissing, and unwanted sexual comments directed toward two employees.

Workplace Conduct Unit confirmed allegations

According to the redacted records released to journalists, investigators at the Legislature’s Workplace Conduct Unit received a complaint from a person who said that the assemblywoman insisted that the employee accept a two-arm hug at a breakfast meeting. At dinner, the assemblywoman hugged the employee again and kissed the person on the cheek. The same complainant also described unwanted sexual comments from the assemblywoman’s chief of staff. A second employee reported that the chief of staff had made inappropriate comments as well. After reviewing the evidence, the investigators concluded that the incidents had occurred.

Previous sexual harassment at the Legislature

The transparency of the Workplace Conduct Unit’s investigation was made possible because an activist group of over 100 women involved in state politics demanded reform in 2017. They directed public attention to what they described as a workplace culture at the Legislature that tolerated sexual harassment. Their efforts resulted in the resignation of three lawmakers in 2017 and 2018.

Victims deserve to have complaints taken seriously

Greater transparency concerning discrimination and harassment complaints at the Legislature highlights the necessity of giving victims a fair hearing. Employers have a duty to investigate claims of sexual harassment and discrimination and not retaliate against employees who report misconduct. Asking an attorney for clarification about workplace rights prior to making a complaint may improve your ability to communicate what happened and why it was illegal. Legal representation even at the initial stages of a complaint might be appropriate, especially if you fear retaliation.