A former employee of Sen. Bob Archuleta, D-Norwalk, is suing the 75-year-old state legislator, alleging she was forced to quit due to his continuing sexual harassment and discriminatory treatment by other male staff members.
The woman is identified only as Jane Doe in the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, which also names as defendants the state of California and the Senate Rules Committee. She alleges whistleblower retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and various state Labor Code violations, and is seeking unspecified damages.
“Thirty-seven years her senior and married with children, Sen. Bob J. Archuleta did not hold back his desire for Doe, making unwanted romantic propositions while sharing sordid details of love affairs,” the suit filed Thursday alleges.
Archuleta, who served on the Pico Rivera City Council before being elected to the state Senate in 2018, released a statement Friday calling the allegations “completely and categorically false.”
“My entire career, I have supported the right of every Californian to feel safe, valued and protected in the workplace,” the statement read. “While I would never knowingly mistreat or disrespect a female employee, I believe in their absolute right to come forward and be heard if and when they believe that standard has been violated.
“Every voice has value. That’s why, from the beginning, I fully and wholeheartedly cooperated with the Senate’s independent investigation into the events in question and was prepared to stand by the outcome. It’s unfortunate for everyone involved that those independent proceedings were interrupted by this lawsuit. Bottom line: the lawsuit filed today manufactures a whole new layer of gratuitous allegations, which were not raised until litigation was chosen as the way to go — and which are completely and categorically false. I look forward now to disproving those allegations in court.”
According to the lawsuit, Archuleta sought out Doe in February 2019 “under the guise of prospective employment” in the senator’s office.
“With high hopes of helping the 32nd Senate District … she jumped at the opportunity to meet with the senator,” the suit states.
During her first interactions with Archuleta, she tried to share the positive experience she enjoyed while working for another politician, but the senator replied, “I don’t care about that. I am Sen. Archuleta and we’re going to do it my way,” the suit alleges.
Archuleta told Doe to keep their meeting confidential and asked her for her resume before subsequently hiring her, according to the plaintiff.
The lawsuit does not specify what Doe’s job title was, but says she openly complained of unwanted sexual advances and touching by Archuleta, including him grabbing her arm in public, as well as the way she was treated in the office because she was a woman.
The lawsuit states that after a fundraising event in July 2019, Archuleta took Doe to the Intercontinental Hotel.
“With glazed-over eyes and a look of disinterest, Archuleta quickly pivoted to personal questions about Doe and unsolicited invitations to take her to a mariachi restaurant so that she could perform for him,” the suit alleges.
Archuleta then turned the conversation to his love affairs, stating, “I would only date my equal… all my love affairs have consisted of women I felt were equals,” according to the plaintiff’s court papers, which further allege that the lawmaker boasted “that he had hit on a local elected official, who turned out to be part of the LGBTQ community.”
Doe always rebuffed Archuleta’s advances, which would prompt him to sometimes “fly into a rage, proclaiming that she needed to acknowledge his feelings and claim that he was hurt by her,” the suit alleges.
Doe also says she spoke out about a district event that occurred during the pandemic when large gatherings were prohibited and in which attendees did not wear masks.
“After Doe complained of Archuleta’s mistreatment of her and rebuffed his unwanted advances, she experienced retaliation,” according to the suit, which says her role in the office was vastly minimized and she was warned about “insubordination.”
Doe’s authority was undermined by Archuleta’s male employees, who failed to respect her because of her gender, the suit alleges. Her complaints about the workplace to her boss “fell on deaf ears” and she was forced to resign last September because of an intolerable work environment, according to her court papers.
The suit also criticizes the role of the Workplace Conduct Unit, an entity created to investigate reports of inappropriate workplace behavior by legislative members and employees.
“Although the landmark Workplace Conduct Unit, lauded as a first of its kind, was made aware of Doe’s accusations against the senator, it failed to carry out in a timely manner the very objective that formed its founding: to conduct an independent investigation of her claims,” the suit alleges.