Public hearings into allegations of widespread sexual harassment and abuse at the California state Capitol will begin next month in the state Assembly.
Democratic lawmakers announced the response Tuesday after nearly 150 women in politics published a letter last week in the Los Angeles Times detailing pervasive mistreatment.
The hearings “will be open to the public and transparent so that we can air out institutional advancements that need to be made in a deliberate way,” read a statement from Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and other Democratic lawmakers. “As we move forward, we must remember that the bottom line is harassers need to stop their abusive actions. The rest of us need to call out harassment and abuse by its name and stigmatize this behavior each and every single time we see it.”
That “open and transparent” line is notable after leaders of the anti-harassment movement criticized Democratic Senate leader Kevin de León’s response—announcing the hiring of a law firm to investigate—as lacking transparency. But the Assembly announcement hardly got a warmer reception.
“We believe it would be morally irresponsible to ask any victim of discrimination, harassment or abuse to testify with no legal guarantee against retaliation,” lobbyist Adama Iwu, who’s organizing the We Said Enough movement, said in a statement.
The movement’s website has begun publishing anonymous stories about mistreatment at the Capitol. So far, it has not named individual lawmakers, staff or lobbyists.
Christine Pelosi, chair of the state Democratic Party’s women’s caucus, proposed the following Friday: a confidential hotline for reports of harassment and abuse, an outside claims investigator, public disclosure of settlements related to sexual harassment, and new whistleblower protections.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for de León also pushed back against criticism of that chamber’s outside investigation.
“This external review by nationally recognized experts in workplace discrimination and harassment will be done professionally and transparently while protecting the privacy of the victims,” Anthony Reyes, the Senate leader’s communications director, wrote in an email.