California state treasurer sued for sexual harassment and racial discrimination
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A former California state employee has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Treasurer Fiona Ma.
The lawsuit, which also alleges racial discrimination and wrongful termination, was filed in the Sacramento Superior Court last week by former executive director of the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee Judith Blackwell last week, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Blackwell alleges that Ma, a Democrat, exposed her backside while the two shared a hotel room which made her "uncomfortable" to the point where she was "fearful to comment on Ms. Ma’s lewd behavior."
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The complaint also alleges that Ma gave Blackwell jewelry, art, and edible marijuana as gifts and the two women frequently dined together along with Ma’s chief of staff.
"I am saddened and disappointed by these baseless claims," Ma said in a statement. "I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support I’ve received today. To set the record straight, we have repeatedly refused to respond to the attorney’s attempts to settle. We look forward to bringing the truth to light in court."
Blackwell also says that in May 2020 she stayed at an Airbnb rental with Ma who at one point climbed in her bed with her while she was trying to sleep. "Fear and confusion", Blackwell explains, caused her to pretend to be asleep.
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A few months later, Blackwell had a stroke that prevented her from working for two months. When she returned, she says that Ma assigned her twice the amount of work as usual and demanded she work into the night.
This past January, Blackwell, who is black, was fired and says she was replaced by "less-qualified Caucasian female."
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"Plaintiff felt the work environment to be hostile as she felt her employment was contingent on her accepting Defendant Ma’s sexual advances," Waukeen McCoy, Blackwell’s attorney, wrote in the complaint adding that Ma has been engaged in a "pattern" of firing black employees.
According to McCoy, Ma has 30 days to respond to the complaint, which seeks civil penalties, punitive damages, and attorney's fees.
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