Biden’s HHS nominee reportedly had to settle sexual harassment claim between Harris’ staff
Presumptive President-elect Joe Biden’s Health and Human Services Secretary pick Xavier Becerra has a “Me Too” connection with Kamala Harris. It stems from his settling a sexual harassment case for a longtime aide of the potential future vice president.
Larry Wallace served as the director of the California Division of Law Enforcement under Harris when she was Attorney General. He was accused of harassment, demeaning behavior, and retaliation in 2016 by his former executive assistant.
In her lawsuit against the Department of Justice, Danielle Hartley said she was selected to be Wallace’s assistant during a 2011 restructuring of the Division of Law Enforcement. Wallace, a former Berkeley police detective who previously worked under Harris when she was the district attorney of San Francisco, had been appointed director earlier that year.
The lawsuit states: “Hartley had concerns she was being harassed and demeaned due to her gender.”
Allegedly, Wallace placed his printer on the floor underneath his desk and ordered Hartley to replace the paper or ink on a daily basis. When she asked to move the printer to another location so she would not have to crawl under his desk in dresses and skirts, Wallace refused. He would often ask Hartley to put paper in the printer while he was sitting at his desk or in front of other male executives from the division.
Hartley also complained in the lawsuit that Wallace took away her “meaningful tasks” and put her in charge of running personal errands, including booking flights for Wallace’s children and washing and performing maintenance on his car. When she would return from these assignments, “co-workers would make hostile comments to her including, ‘Are you walking the walk of shame?’”
She told her supervisor Shannon Patterson what was taking place and asked for help. “Hartley observed Patterson enter Wallace’s office and met with him behind closed doors,” but after that, she began to experience retaliation.
Hartley claims she was “set up to fail,” micro-managed by Patterson, investigated by internal affairs on a “fabricated charge” for which she was never informed of the outcome, and, “told she should quit her job and seek employment elsewhere.”
Becerra, who by then had been appointed to succeed Harris, and two of his deputies said the department took “reasonable steps to prevent and correct workplace harassment” by instituting procedures for harassment and training Hartley on the policy.
Hartley “unreasonably failed to utilize the procedures during the period of time, and after, the alleged harassment or discrimination was occurring,” Becerra wrote. “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.”
After the incident, the assistant filed a lawsuit during Harris’ tenure as attorney general. It was settled for $400,000 by Becerra after Harris went to the Senate. Becerra, however, still denied the claims.
Wallace went to the Senate with Harris to work for her as a senior adviser. He resigned in 2018 when the settlement came to light. A spokesperson for Harris at the time said the then-senator had been unaware of the accusations, settlement, or lawsuit.
Top staffer to @KamalaHarris quits after settling harassment lawsuit by female victim for $400,000, while they worked for Harris' CADOJ.
NOTE: Victim's co-workers would shame her by saying, "Are you walking the walk of shame?"
Awesome work environment 👌https://t.co/57csUAuv3t
— Steven Cheung (@CaliforniaPanda) December 6, 2018
Unbelievably, after stepping down in disgrace, Wallace went on to be hired as the new public corruption investigator in Contra Costa County.
Larry Wallace has a new job. He was a longtime adviser to Kamala Harris who resigned about a year ago after I asked about a $400,000 harassment and retaliation settlement that resulted from his time working for her at the California Department of Justice: https://t.co/FLvNjguQy3 https://t.co/EFsyfCnA3o
— Alexei Koseff (@akoseff) December 17, 2019
If elected, Harris will be the first female vice president of the United States in history. She is a staunch supporter of the #MeToo movement which decries sexual harassment and sexual abuse which makes the situation even more ironic.
Biden announced Becerra’s nomination on Monday, after receiving intense pressure to pick a Latino for the position.
Before becoming attorney general in California, Becerra served 12 terms in Congress.
It was a shock that he was tapped to head HHS since Becerra is a strong advocate for abortion.
$400k settlement? That is not a nuisance amount. It beggars belief that the Senator didn't know about this allegation. Hiring a supervisor with this track record is astounding. Kamala Harris aide leaves after harassment settlement surfaces https://t.co/0w9wxKUX4v
— Harmeet K. Dhillon (@pnjaban) December 6, 2018
A number of Catholics and conservative activists are furious over the nomination.
“President-elect Joe Biden’s choice of Xavier Becerra to run HHS is a gross insult to Catholics,” said Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow with the Catholic Association.
“Becerra spent years tormenting the Little Sisters of the Poor in court, trying to force them to pay for things like abortion pills against their consciences,” McGuire said. “He also led efforts to force pro-life pregnancy resource centers to advertise for abortion. Thankfully both of his efforts failed at the Supreme Court. But Becerra is outright hostile to religious liberty and Biden’s choice of someone so openly anti-Catholic is an affront to the faith that he so frequently invoked as part of his campaign.”