The California Justice Department paid more than $1.1 million in response to sexual harassment and misconduct claims that were made while Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden: Trump ‘did the right thing by walking away’ from North Korea deal GOP pollster says Senate vote on Green New Deal will be a test for 2020 Dems in chamber Most voters view Green New Deal as ‘largely socialist,’ poll shows MORE (D-Calif.) was state attorney general from 2011-2017, according to The Los Angeles Times.
The report comes weeks after Harris announced her presidential bid and is the result of a California Public Records Act request. The incidents include allegations that employees sexually harassed and retaliated against co-workers. Some claimed to be the victims of inappropriate touching and others said comments and actions around the workplace made them uncomfortable.
A spokesperson told the Times that while Harris was unaware of the suits before being approached by the paper, she takes responsibility for the conduct in her office at the time.
“As the chief executive of a department of nearly 5,000 employees, the buck stopped with me,” Harris said in a statement. “No one should face harassment or intimidation in the workplace, and victims of sexual misconduct should be listened to, believed and protected.”
“In my Senate office, if a harassment complaint is made, it immediately comes to me,” she added. “No office is immune to misconduct, and there is much more work to do to ensure all are protected.”
Representatives for Harris also told The Times that settlements at the department were often dealt with by administrators under Harris who were expected to follow strict protocols.
Focus on Harris’ time in state government intensified after a $400,000 payment was revealed to settle a gender harassment claim against Larry Wallace, a longtime top aide to Harris who worked in her Senate office.
A spokeswoman told the Times that Harris was unaware of the accusations against Wallace and accepted his resignation when it was offered.
The Times also detailed a litany of other suits that were brought against the Justice Department, with the largest amounting to $649,500.
The claims against the Justice Department under Harris’ watch could bubble up in the 2020 campaign as Democratic candidates take pains to appear sensitive to gender and racial inequality.
Harris is running in an already crowded primary field that features other high-profile candidates, including several Senate colleagues. She has cast herself as a staunch progressive and ally of the #MeToo movement.