By Laurel Rosenhall, CALmatters
With sexual harassment and assault allegations ricocheting through the state Capitol, two female lobbyists say they soon faced the consequences of speaking out—a state senator who suddenly wanted to avoid meeting with them.
A client of theirs relayed that the senator wanted women excluded from a meeting at a nearby watering hole. The reason: The senator and some of his colleagues had decided that, with accusations of bad behavior mounting against their fellow legislators, it would be safer to simply stop having drinks with lobbyists who happen to be female.
“Cutting off an entire gender from that access is clearly harmful,” said lobbyist Jodi Hicks, whose client alerted her of the senator’s intent. “If we are saying we need to change the culture, this is the opposite of that.”
Hicks is one of nearly 150 women who signed a letter in October condemning what they called the pervasive culture of sexual harassment in California politics. The movement known as “We Said Enough” began as a general outcry. It has since evolved into a series of specific and disturbing allegations that have toppled one lawmaker and have left two others fighting for their careers.
And as women come forward with stories of being propositioned, groped and even assaulted by male colleagues in politics, an undercurrent of retaliation has begun rippling through the state. Men have threatened to sideline women from private meetings. Critics, hiding behind anonymous emails, are trying to shame some of the women speaking out.
One lobbyist already has lost her job.
“(She) was publicly outspoken about the movement and the contents of the letter. And when she notified her employer that she was a signatory to the letter, she was promptly dismissed,” said employment lawyer Micha Liberty, whom the…