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California Lawmakers, Sexual Harassment, and a Culture of Fear at the State CapitolThe California State Capitol was the focus of a flurry of bombshell allegations last fall even in the midst of national reports of sexual abuse scandals beginning to rock the popular culture, one by one. In October, nearly 150 women with unified voice signed a letter directing attention to and condemning pervasive “dehumanizing behavior by men” in California political circles. Some of the objects of the condemnation included legislative staff, consultants, lobbyists, and six lawmakers in office.

In this unified front began a discussion about the powerful culture of fear and retaliation in Sacramento in which women were strongly discouraged from reporting prevalent and persistent sexual harassment and the perpetrators are protected from punishment. When the State legislature finally reconvened in January, two of its sitting members had already stepped down in the face of sexual misconduct accusations with other additional complaints lodged against a few more.

Inappropriate advances and harassment

Lisa Kaplan has not traversed the Capitol community for more than a decade now. However, telling her story is still a very unpleasant experience.

Now 42, and a private practice attorney and trustee for Natomas Unified School District, Kaplan says she underwent inappropriate advances and harassment from men over a period of several years at the State Capitol. Eventually, when a superior refused to grant her a raise she was expecting on account of her refusal to date him, she decided to finally blow the whistle. However, from that point forward Kaplan’s complaint and hope for career advances hit a roadblock.

Describing the risk women face when they file a complaint for sexual harassment, Kaplan describes the “good old boys network” that joins forces and finds “a way to get you out.”

A large group of women are bringing attention to the pervasive allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault among the California political elite. They assert that Kaplan’s personal experience is a perfect example of the fear culture that leaves women feeling defenseless and unable to speak up without the risk of losing their jobs.

Although the liberal State legislature has enhanced the freedoms of whistleblowers in private and public employment settings across California, the same body is facing allegations of covering up complaints against its own. Women who have held positions in around the political landscape of Sacramento have reported numerous stories of experiencing unwanted sexual harassment which they previously never reported for fear of retribution to their livelihood.

A flurry of #MeToo legislation in CA over the past year

As the moment of reckoning has arrived and continues at the California State Capitol, lawmakers over the previous year have been compelled by the above-mentioned allegations and public pressure to pass a significant amount of legislation that addresses workplace sexual harassment. At this pace, the example of California may compel other states across the nation to follow suit with similar legislation. While legislators developed these new laws referred to above, they also focused on developing new ways to handle their own internal investigations of claims of inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment.

Filing a claim for sexual harassment takes courage, often in the face of implied threats against one’s own livelihood. If you have suffered inappropriate sexual advancements or harassment in a workplace setting, our Los Angeles sexual harassment attorneys at Taylor & Ring can help you develop a path to move forward. We are able to fight aggressively to help you secure the compensation you deserve for the harm you have suffered. To set up a free consultation about your case, call our law office today at 310.776.6390 or send us a message through our contact form.

 

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