A sexual misconduct settlement could threaten #MeToo progress at California Capitol
A young woman accused of sexual harassment by a Democratic state assemblyman was named in a complaint filed the same day she was fired.
California Assembly Bill 1293 would have made the California Legislature subject to civil claims for gender-based harassment or discrimination. For example, a woman who is harassed or discriminated against because of her gender could bring a sex-based discrimination claim, or a woman who is harassed or discriminated against because of her sexual orientation could bring a gender-based harassment or discrimination claim.
However, due to a deal with a lobbyist pushing for the bill, California Assembly Bill 1293 was stripped of virtually all its civil protections and became a form of retaliation against a young woman who dared speak out against a powerful politician, Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles).
A former Assemblywoman and now a law professor, Andrea Reyes, sued Assemblyman Gomez in September. Reyes, who had become a state Assemblywoman after she was elected in 2018, alleged that Gomez had sexually harassed her when she worked in his office while he was state assembly speaker.
The Assemblyman eventually reached a settlement with his accuser, but the agreement was not public until the end of 2018, at which time it was made by a lobbyist for Gomez’s main opponent, Assemblyman Vince Fong (D-Villa Park).
The agreement came with a catch. It made Gomez subject to a civil suit if he fired Reyes. So she could not bring her case in a public court.
The California Assembly removed Reyes from its payroll. Two weeks later, she announced she would continue pursuing federal charges of sexual harassment and discrimination against Assemblyman Gomez.
This is a case about power and influence in Sacramento. When the Assembly first came under allegations of sexual harassment, the Assembly had enough power to defend itself from a lawsuit from a woman who would have been one of the most powerful speakers in the state legislature. But now that power is being stripped away from the Assembly and this young woman is taking her case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The case is the latest in a string of sexual harassment cases that have taken place in California, in a state that does not typically take sexual harassment cases up the chain to the U.S. Supreme Court. It is also a case that could be used to weaken protections for both victims