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California State Capitol

The California Senate has retained a prominent Bay Area employment attorney to investigate public allegations of “pervasive” sexual harassment and abuse leveled by dozens of women who work in and around the state Capitol.

Amy Oppenheimer of the Law Offices of Amy Oppenheimer in Berkeley was chosen to review claims—publicized in a letter published Oct. 17 by the Los Angeles Times—that unnamed men “groped and touched us without our consent, made inappropriate comments about our bodies and our abilities.” The letter was signed by 147 lobbyists, lawmakers and staff.

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Cheryl Miller

Cheryl Miller, based in Sacramento, covers the state legislature and emerging industries, including autonomous vehicles and marijuana. She authors the weekly cannabis newsletter Higher Law. Contact her at [email protected]. On Twitter: @CapitalAccounts

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[caption id="attachment_3672" align="alignnone" width="620"]<img class="size-full wp-image-3672" src="http://www.almcms.com/contrib

  • Gordon & Rees

/uploads/sites/403/2017/10/California-State-Capitol-Article-201710232258.jpg" alt="" width="620" height="372" /> <i>California State Capitol</i>[/caption] <span style="font-weight: 400">The California Senate has retained a prominent Bay Area employment attorney to investigate </span><span style="text-decoration: underline"><strong><a href="http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-women-harassment-capitol-20171017-story.html" target="_blank">public allegations</a></strong></span><span style="font-weight: 400"> of ���pervasive��� sexual harassment and abuse leveled by dozens of women who work in and around the state Capitol.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">Amy Oppenheimer of the Law Offices of Amy Oppenheimer in Berkeley was chosen to review claims���publicized in a </span><span style="text-decoration: underline"><strong><a href="http://documents.latimes.com/women-california-politics-call-out-pervasive-culture-sexual-harassment/" target="_blank">letter published Oct. 17</a></strong></span><span style="font-weight: 400"> by the Los Angeles Times���that unnamed men ���groped and touched us without our consent, made inappropriate comments about our bodies and our abilities." The letter was signed</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">by 147 lobbyists, lawmakers and staff.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">���There���s always more employers can do to protect their employees,��� Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, said in a </span><span style="text-decoration: underline"><strong><a href="http://sd24.senate.ca.gov/news/2017-10-23-statement-california-state-senate-leader" target="_blank">prepared statement</a></strong></span><span style="font-weight: 400"> on Monday. ���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.���</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">Oppenheimer���s firm is a go-to source for employers, many of them public agencies, seeking training for employees in sexual harassment laws as well as investigations into allegations of workplace wrongdoing. A former arbitrator, Oppenheimer worked almost 20 years as an administrative law judge at the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. She is also the founder and past president of the board of the </span><span style="text-decoration: underline"><strong><a href="http://www.awi.org/" target="_blank">Association of Workplace Investigators Inc</a>.</strong></span> <div style="float: right;margin: 2px 15px 0px 0px;width: 245px"><img class="size-full wp-image-3674" src="http://www.almcms.com/contrib

  • Gordon & Rees

/uploads/sites/403/2017/10/Amy-Oppenheimer-Vert-201710232259.jpg" alt="" width="245" height="369" /> <i>Amy Oppenheimer</i></div> <span style="font-weight: 400">The University of California, Berkeley, School of Law recently retained Oppenheimer���s firm to conduct Title IX training on sexual harassment and violence for all incoming J.D. students. The law school was rocked last year by </span><span style="text-decoration: underline"><strong><a href="http://www.law.com/therecorder/almID/1202751891609/berkeley-law-dean-resigns/?back=law" target="_blank">allegations</a></strong></span><span style="font-weight: 400"> that then-Dean Sujit Choudhry sexually harassed his executive assistant.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">Oppenheimer���s firm was one of several recommended by the Senate���s outside employment counsel, the law firm Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani, according to a de Leon spokesman. De Leon���s office said a contract���with no specified duration���was still being drafted Monday. The office declined to specify how much Oppenheimer���s firm will be paid beyond ���the general government rate for attorneys.���</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">Oppenheimer did not immediately respond to a message left at her office Monday.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">The publication of the sexual harassment claims follows </span><span style="text-decoration: underline"><strong><a href="http://www.law.com/therecorder/sites/americanlawyer/2017/10/09/harvey-weinsteins-wild-weekend-involved-plenty-of-lawyers/?back=law" target="_blank">highly publicized allegations of sexual abuse and harassment</a></strong></span><span style="font-weight: 400"> made against Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, which led to his abrupt resignation. The New York Attorney General's Office </span><span style="text-decoration: underline"><strong><a href="http://www.law.com/newyorklawjournal/sites/newyorklawjournal/2017/10/23/102317ny_weinstein/" target="_blank">on Monday announced</a></strong></span><span style="font-weight: 400"> a civil investigation targeting the Weinstein company.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">The letter-writers said they weren���t shocked by the descriptions of Weinstein���s behavior.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">���As women leaders in politics, in a state that postures itself as a leader in justice and equality, you might assume our experience has been different. It has not,��� they wrote. ���Each of us has endured, witnessed or worked with women who have experienced some form of dehumanizing behavior by men with power in our workplaces.���</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">The women also launched a website, WeSaidEnough.com, that promises ���a plan of action��� for improving responses to harassment allegations at the Capitol.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400">Those who signed the letter include retired state Sen. Martha Escutia, a former Judiciary Committee chairwoman; Lea-Ann Tratten, political director of the Consumer Attorneys of California; Mariko Yoshihara, political director at the California Employment Lawyers Association; and Jennifer Wada, a contract lobbyist for the State Bar of California.</span> <

  • Gordon & Rees

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