State Senate Announces New Steps to Increase Workplace Safety and Worker Protections

Friday, November 17, 2017

SACRAMENTO Today, California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) announced that, effective immediately, the Senate will be undertaking the following steps to further increase the safety of its employees, to protect victims of sexual abuse and harassment as well as whistleblowers and to increase public confidence:

  1. The appointment of a panel to interview and select an external, independent law firm to investigate complaints of sexual harassment and misconduct It is anticipated interviews of law firms will begin the week of November 27th with a selection made by mid-December. The firm should have no prior existing professional or political relationship with the State Senate or individual Senators.
  2. The panel will include: Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel), Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino), Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel), Governmental Advocate Christy Bouma, Legislative Counsel of California Diane Boyer Vine, and Secretary of the Senate Daniel Alvarez.
  3. The ongoing investigation into the alleged misconduct of Senator Tony Mendoza will be transferred to this independent investigatory body once selected.  Given the repeated allegations, it is recommended that Senator Mendoza be suspended from his Chairmanship, boards and commissions pending the outcome of that investigation.  The Senate Rules Committee will meet in emergency session later this month to consider that action.
  4. Until that independent process is established, the Senate encourages confidential reporting of any sexual harassment be directed to Amy Oppenheimer, renowned anti-harassment legal expert and the Senate’s outside counsel retained to investigate these claims.
  5. CPS HR Consulting firm has been asked to review current policies, practices and procedures and make recommendations to improve services and support for victims of workplace harassment and sexual abuse. It is necessary to strengthen safeguards including anti-retaliation protections for whistleblowers, to increase transparency in the system while balancing privacy rights of victims and whistleblowers, and to hold the Senate publicly accountable. 

Ultimately, the Senate strongly agrees with the Legislative Women’s Caucus that lasting change will best be achieved by a unified, bicameral and bipartisan approach – so the Senate will work diligently with its counterparts in the Assembly, the Legislative Women’s Caucus and officials throughout state government to implement government-wide reforms. The Senate and Assembly have already committed to conduct a climate survey of all its employees and members, with publicly reported results.

California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) released the following statement today:

“Like many in our Caucus, I’m deeply troubled by the quantity and specificity of accusations against Senator Mendoza -- and have therefore determined that Senator Mendoza should be suspended from Chairmanships, boards and commissions until the independent investigation into his conduct is complete.  

“The State Senate, with the bipartisan approval of Senators on our Rules Committee and in consultation with Senators in the Women’s Caucus, has taken the extraordinary step to move all current and future sexual harassment complaints and investigations into an independent process led by third-party experts in the field, including the investigation into the allegations against Senator Mendoza.  Today, we have announced a panel to put that process into motion.

“While the Senate must act now to bring independence, protection of victims and due process to current complaints, we also endorse the comprehensive reform objectives of the Legislative Women's Caucus.  I believe we must create a two-house process and that we should immediately pass reforms when the Legislature is next in session, including a bill to protect legislative employees from retaliation."