Retaliation Fears Surround Investigation Of California Capitol Harassment

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A lobbyist says she’s still waiting to see details before she agrees to cooperate with any outside law firm hired to investigate the long list of sexual harassment and abuse allegations at the state Capitol.

“It’s critical that women are protected against retaliation,” Pamela Lopez said. “And exposing a woman who does not wish to be named is a way of retaliating against that woman.”

She is one of the hundreds of women who came forward in October with claims of sexual abuse and harassment at the state legislature.

After waiting weeks for a response from lawmakers, the women say they received a press release saying the Senate will now let an outside legal team handle all harassment complaints, instead of doing it on their own.

The changes come after new allegations against state Sen. Tony Mendoza. A second woman publicly accused Mendoza of “inappropriate behavior” toward her when she was 19.

The senator denied the first claim that he allegedly invited a female staffer to his house to look at resumes.

But over the weekend, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon moved out of a house he shared with the Senator.

On Monday, De Leon issued a statement, saying, “The people who work in the Senate and the public we serve must have complete confidence that no public official is above the law or our strict zero-tolerance harassment policies. Those who violate these policies will be held to account swiftly and justly.”

De Leon announced last month he is challenging longtime California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Attorney Mary-Alice Coleman, who represents victims of sexual assault in the workplace, says going after a government entity poses challenges.

”As long as the employer—in this case the legislature—controls who is doing the investigation, there will be questions about whether or not it’s a fair and unbiased investigation,” she said.

That’s why victims say they’re asking for full transparency.

“This seems to be a step in the right direction, but we want to see those details before we can comment on what we would encourage other women to do,” said Lopez.

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