LOS ANGELES – Two California Democratic Party staffers and one former employee are suing the party and former chairman Eric Bauman in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging sexual harassment by Bauman, who resigned in November amid an investigation into misconduct allegations.
The 58-page lawsuit, filed Tuesday and first reported by the Los Angeles Times, outlines a series of alleged acts of sexual misconduct and harassment aimed at the trio of plaintiffs — one woman and two gay men. It accuses the party of disregarding the rights of its workers by negligently retaining and failing to supervise “incompetent and unfit” employees.
Bauman’s attorney, Neal Zaslavsky, could not be reached for comment, but he told The Times his client “has not been served with any lawsuit and has no further comment at this time.”
Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the California Democratic Party, released a statement saying the party “is strongly supportive of our staff” and takes “credible allegations of misconduct very seriously.” He said the party has hired an independent outside investigator to probe the misconduct allegation against Bauman and has established a hotline for people to report harassment or assault.
“There is no place for harassment or abuse in our party or in ay workplace,” acting Party Chair Alexandra “Alex” Rooker said in a statement released by Salazar.
She said her “foremost concern is the safety and well-being of CDP employees and the larger Democratic community.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Katherine P. Earley, a Sacramento County resident, William Rodriguez-Kennedy of San Diego County and Alton Wang of Los Angeles County. All three began working for the party in September. The Times reported that Earley and Rodriguez-Kennedy are still with the party, but Wang was fired in December. The suit claims that Wang’s firing was in response to his complaints about harassment.
The suit claims that Rodriguez-Kennedy “has been subjected to sexual harassment by Bauman throughout his employment,” and that he “has also witnessed Bauman sexually harassing other young gay men. Bauman gets very close to young gay employees and touches them unnecessarily during conversations or when he is standing near them.”
Wang claims in the suit that Bauman “was usually flirtatious” in their conversations.
“He called Alton ‘baby’ whenever he spoke to him on the telephone,” according to the lawsuit. “Upon information and belief, Bauman called other gay men ‘baby’ as well. The ‘pet name’ was very uncomfortable coming from his boss.”
Earley contends in the complaint that while Bauman was “flirtatious with young men viewing them as sexual playthings, he was hostile and demeaning towards women.”
“The culture of harassment was emulated by young male interns in Sacramento who were insubordinate to female supervisors, refusing to follow directions and instead doing things their own way,” according to the lawsuit.
The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges sexual harassment, discrimination, failure to prevent harassment and discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, assault, sexual assault and battery, infliction of emotional distress and negligent retention and supervision.
Bauman initially took a leave of absence from the party amid an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations, but he later opted to resign.
“I have made the realization that in order for those to whom I may have caused pain and who need to heal, for my own health, and in the best interest of the party that I love and to which I have dedicated myself for more than 25 years, it is in everyone’s best interest for me to resign my position as chair of the California Democratic Party,” he said in a statement.
“My dream was to create an environment at the CDP where the officers were partners, actual participants in the planning and operation of the party; where delegates and staff could share their ideas and concerns; where outreach into key communities was not limited to the campaign cycle, but was a permanent year-round commitment; where our meetings were focused on our delegates and their interests and needs; where new and creative ideas, concepts and technologies were tested, adopted and integrated; where the most innovative, sophisticated and comprehensive campaigns could be built and executed, and as a result we could engage and participate in all parts of the state; where Democrats could be elected in places long written off as unlikely, unwinnable or unimaginable; and that our relationships with grassroots groups, labor and our legislative leadership and political teams would grow and be strengthened.
“I leave knowing that in 18 short months we did all of that,” he said.
Bauman was elected chairman of the party in 2017, after a closely contested election against progressive activist Kimberly Ellis. A former nurse and organizer, he led the Los Angeles County Democrats for 17 years and also served as vice chairman for the statewide party for eight years.