California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris accepted the resignation of one of her staffers, Larry Wallace, on Wednesday after accusations of harassment surfaced from the time that he was working for her at the California Department of Justice.
“We were unaware of this issue and take accusations of harassment extremely seriously. This evening, Mr. Wallace offered his resignation to the senator and she accepted it,” Lily Adams, Harris’s spokeswoman told CNN in a statement.
Wallace resigned after the The Sacramento Bee inquired about a $400,000 harassment and retaliation settlement from his time working for Harris when she was attorney general of California. At the time of the alleged harassment, Wallace was working as the director of the Division of Law Enforcement.
Wallace could not be reached for comment on the accusations on Wednesday night.
Harris was never told about lawsuit, according to her staff. It was filed in late December of 2016 after she had been elected to the US Senate, but was still attorney general of California.
The allegations have resurfaced as Harris considers a possible 2020 presidential bid, putting her record in California under renewed scrutiny. The disclosure of allegations against her aide are also coming to light at a time when there is heightened awareness of harassment issues facing women in the workplace in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
In the complaint filed in California Superior Court in Sacramento, Wallace’s former assistant, Danielle Hartley, accused him of “gender harassment.”
Hartley alleges that while working as Wallace’s assistant, he would ask her daily to refill paper or replace the ink in a printer that was located on the floor under his desk. She says that asked him to move the printer to a different location so that she would not have “to bend down on her knees under the desk in her dresses and skirts, but Wallace refused.”
“Many times, Wallace would ask her to put paper in the printer while he was sitting at his desk or with other male executives from the (Division of Law Enforcement) in the room,” the lawsuit says.
In addition, Hartley alleged that Wallace asked her to book flights for his children, wash his car and run personal errands for him. She said other employees mocked her for carrying out those tasks, with hostile comments like: “Are you walking the walk of shame?” She alleges that California state Justice Department officials were aware of the comments.
After informing one of her supervisors about Wallace’s alleged behavior, she says she was subjected to retaliation by being involuntarily moved to a new job.
In answer to the lawsuit, the DOJ denied the allegations, according to court documents.
The lawsuit was settled by the Department of Justice in May 2017, though they continued to deny the claims, after Xavier Becerra had assumed the role of attorney general. By that time, Wallace was working as a senior adviser to Harris in her Sacramento office.
Amanda Renteria, former Chief of Operations for the state’s justice department, said she could not speak about specific employment cases.
Harris, who has been an outspoken advocate for the #MeToo movement, plans to decide whether she will run for president in the coming weeks. Her tough questioning of Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court who was accused of sexual harassment, enhanced her stature within the Democratic Party.
If Harris launches a run for the White House, it could be powered in part by women who admired her interrogation of Kavanaugh and many other Trump nominees during her time in the Senate.
During a recent trip to Iowa where she campaigned for female candidates ahead of the midterm elections, Harris was swarmed by women who praised her questioning of Kavanaugh at a hearing focused on an allegation of sexual assault that occurred when he was in high school. Kavanaugh, who is now on the court, denied the allegation.