A senior aide to Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) resigned on Wednesday amid reports that the state paid $400,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him while Harris was the California attorney general.
Harris has denied knowledge of the lawsuit against Larry Wallace, who directed the state Department of Justice’s Division of Law Enforcement during her tenure as attorney general, and continued to work for her after she began her term in the U.S. Senate last year.
Danielle Hartley, former executive assistant to Wallace, accused him of “gender harassment,” including forcing her to perform demeaning tasks like washing his car and crawling under his desk to refill the paper in his printer.
The lawsuit was filed on Dec. 30, 2016, shortly before Harris was sworn in as a senator. The California Department of Justice settled the suit in May 2017 under Harris’ successor, Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
Wallace resigned this week after The Sacramento Bee inquired about the settlement.
Harris’ office did not respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment.
“We were unaware of this issue and take accusations of harassment extremely seriously,” Harris spokeswoman Lily Adams said in a statement to the Bee on Wednesday. “This evening, Mr. Wallace offered his resignation to the senator and she accepted it.”
Becerra’s office filed an answer to the lawsuit in January 2017, saying the department denied “generally and specifically each and every allegation contained in the Complaint.”
The attorney general said his department took “reasonable steps to prevent and correct workplace harassment” with new procedures and training. The department’s filing claimed Hartley “unreasonably failed to utilize the procedures during the period of time, and after, the alleged harassment or discrimination was occurring.”
“Had Plaintiff taken reasonable effort to utilize these procedures Plaintiff’s alleged harm, injury or damages would have been avoided, in whole or in part,” Becerra wrote.
A spokesperson for the attorney general said in a statement to HuffPost: “The California Department of Justice does not comment on personnel matters and this case was handled in keeping with standard procedure.”
Hartley’s lawsuit accused Wallace of replacing her “meaningful tasks” with personal errands like booking flights for his children and washing his car. She also alleged he placed his printer under his desk and asked her to crawl on the floor to refill the paper on a daily basis, often while he was sitting there.
Hartley claims she faced retaliation from supervisors when she came forward to report the harassment.
Hartley agreed to a non-disclosure clause in the settlement that prevents her from discussing the agreement publicly. She also resigned from her position and agreed she wouldn’t seek employment with the department again.
Harris emerged as a prominent voice against workplace sexual harassment amid the rise of the Me Too movement. She teamed up with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) on a bipartisan bill earlier this year to curtail the use of non-disclosure agreements in harassment settlements.
“The culture of fear and silence created by perpetrators of sexual harassment in the workplace has existed for far too long and must come to an end,” Harris said in a June press release.
This story has been updated with a statement from the state attorney general’s spokesperson.