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California LegislatureSexual harassment

California Senate hires investigators to look into sexual harassment allegations

California Senate leader Kevin de León will hire two outside firms to look into allegations of a widespread culture of sexual harassment in the state Capitol.

De León announced Monday he has hired the law office of Amy Oppenheimer to conduct an external investigation into harassment and assault allegations, and the consulting firm CPS HR Consulting to review Senate policies on harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

De León also sent letters to lobbyists in the Capitol community detailing how existing rules protect non-employees.

"There's always more employers can do to protect their employees," De León said in a statement. "Everyone deserves a workplace free of fear, harassment and sexual misbehavior and I applaud the courage of women working in and around the Capitol who are coming forward and making their voices heard.

The women behind an open letter sent last week calling out a “pervasive” culture of mistreatment in the political industry said that De León's actions were insufficient.

More than 140 women, including legislators, Capitol staff, political consultants and lobbyists, signed the letter. 

"To find the truth and rebuild trust, we need a truly independent investigation, not a secretly hand-picked self-investigation," said Adama Iwu, a government affairs director for Visa who spearheaded the campaign. "We need full transparency. How was this firm selected? Who will they report their findings to? What exactly are they investigating? Is the Assembly involved?"

Meanwhile, the women who have signed the letter, who have coalesced into a group called "We Said Enough," announced they were formalizing their advocacy efforts on Monday by launching a nonprofit organization. 

The group plans to hold forums to "outline a plan of action for improving how harassment and abuse complaints are reported, investigated and addressed."

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