LAWSUIT: California Union Boss Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher Threatened Retribution Against Sexual Harassment Whistleblower

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California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher and Vice President Kamala Harris, March 9, 2023. CREDIT: Twitter/Lorena S Gonzalez

Judging by her public remarks in press conferences and from the floor of the California State Assembly, from her Twitter account, and from her own claims, California Labor Federation chief Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher’s entire career has been about protecting marginalized workers against the management and corporations she believes take advantage of them.

A few examples:

Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher tweet, October 31, 2020. CREDIT: Twitter screenshot

Gonzalez has been especially vocal in her support of women who have been sexually harassed at work and has sponsored legislation strengthening protections for people who report workplace sexual harassment.

Lorena gonzalez fletcher sexual harassment

And, she’s very clear as to what constitutes sexual assault.

Gonzalez Fletcher had the opportunity to put her money where her mouth is when her husband, San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, was named in a sexual harassment complaint filed by a county employee who alleges that Fletcher pursued her romantically and sexually assaulted her twice at the workplace (a county office building) and that she was fired after she rebuffed him.

Not surprisingly, despite her promise to “never leave a low-wage worker behind” and her claims that she’s on the side of victims, Gonzalez Fletcher is alleged to have done much more than leave a low-wage worker behind. When San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) PR specialist Grecia Figueroa filed that sexual harassment claim against Nathan Fletcher and the agency – an agency in which many employees are unionized and part of the California Labor Federation – Gonzalez Fletcher herself stepped in to threaten, harass, intimidate, and attempt to silence the victim.

To emphasize, so the point isn’t lost: the state’s most powerful union leader personally participated in threatening, harassing, and intimidating a victim who had filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) regarding the sexual harassment and abuse she’d experienced on the job, and her termination after telling her abuser no. When the victim received a “right to sue” letter with DFEH and exercised that right, that labor union leader then personally participated in defaming the victim and accusing her of attempted extortion.

Here’s how it all went down.

After Figueroa was fired on February 6 and forced to leave the San Diego MTS premises without her personal belongings and without being given any reason for her dismissal, she filed a complaint with DFEH against Fletcher and San Diego MTS. Then, according to her verified civil complaint:

Prior to filing this action, Ms. Figueroa attempted to engage in meaningful, pre-litigation settlement discussions with Fletcher to resolve her claims quietly and amicably.

Fletcher immediately contacted Ms. Figueroa, by and through counsel, to request that Ms. Figueroa keep the matter strictly between herself and Fletcher and that she remain absolutely silent about her story, not even sharing it with MTS. As a professional courtesy, Ms. Figueroa agreed and provided a summary of her claims, in hopes that the parties could open a good-faith dialogue to resolve the matter on mutually agreeable terms.

That good-faith dialogue, if it ever occurred, didn’t last long. Paragraphs 58-61 state:

These discussions were short-lived, however, because Fletcher soon resorted to threats of bullying, intimidation, and defamatory legal action against Ms. Figueroa if she ever brought her story to light.

Specifically, on [Sunday] March 26, 2023, Fletcher’s counsel conveyed that Fletcher and his wife, Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, intended to sue Ms. Figueroa (and her counsel) for extortion if Ms. Figueroa filed a civil suit to vindicate her rights as alleged herein. In addition, they stated they would make Ms. Figueroa “look terrible, and it’s going to follow her for the rest of her life.”

Needless to say, Ms. Figueroa did not perceive Fletcher’s threats as an indication of good-faith settlement communications, and the discussion quickly proved futile.

Notably, just a few hours later, that same day, on March 26, 2023, Fletcher publicly announced his withdrawal from the California State Senate race, citing the need to address “post traumatic stress, trauma and alcohol abuse” – a maneuver which some might characterize as a PR stunt designed to shift optics from villain to victim in anticipation of a scandal.

On Tuesday, March 28, Figueroa’s counsel filed a civil complaint against Fletcher and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System. The file-stamped copy reflects that it was filed at 5:41 PM that night, so it wasn’t recorded by the court until the next morning. Fletcher’s attorney would have been notified immediately, though, so Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher knew what was coming the next morning when it hit the news. Ostensibly Nathan Fletcher, who was allegedly in inpatient alcohol rehab in another state, wouldn’t have known about this development, but somehow was able to issue a statement the next morning, before news of the lawsuit broke.

In that statement, the Fletchers made good on at least part of their threat. Nathan Fletcher is quoted as saying:

“Last year, I made a terrible mistake engaging in consensual interactions with someone outside my marriage. I made clear it could not continue or advance and desperately hoped I could leave this mistake in my past. However, this individual and an attorney demanded millions of dollars from me and my family with the threat of not only embarrassment but a willingness to lie about the circumstances and nature of the interactions.”

Hmmm. Perhaps he had pre-scripted this statement in case the news came out while he was in rehab?

Fletcher makes it a point to say that he engaged in “consensual interactions” and insinuated that the relationship broke down because Figueroa wanted more than a fling because he knew that the lawsuit would state the opposite. Essentially, he paints her as a money-hungry, clingy woman.

Fletcher’s attorney also maligned the woman, publicly accusing her of attempted extortion and filing a malicious lawsuit. The attorney, Danielle Moore, asserts that Fletcher had no authority over Figueroa’s employment, which might be technically true but is laughable for anyone who understands how politics works.

“My client and his wife have been facing an attempt by a former colleague to obtain millions of dollars. We have asked the authorities to investigate these efforts and are pursuing our own legal response. The allegations are false and designed to drive headlines and not tell the truth. It is also notable that they only include one side of the communications. The simple truth is that Ms. Figueroa pursued my client, their interactions were consensual and Mr. Fletcher does not and never had any authority over her employment. We will aggressively fight this issue in court and the full record will show the truth.”

After this statement was released, Figueroa’s attorney called out Fletcher, Gonzalez, and their attorney, reminding the public that during pre-filing settlement discussions, Gonzalez threatened to destroy Figueroa’s life if she went public. After requesting privacy for Figueroa and for all media requests to go through his office, the attorney said:

Regarding a statement of our position, the allegations in our civil complaint speak for themselves — as do Nathan Fletcher’s actions over the past several days. Our complaint noted (at paragraphs 56-61) that Nathan Fletcher, Lorena Gonzalez, and their attorney, Danielle Moore, threatened to publicly humiliate, defame, and (falsely) accuse my client of extortion if we brought our story to light. And in the hours between the time we filed our complaint and the time it was published by the Court, Nathan Fletcher, Lorena Gonzalez, and Danielle Moore did just that. Their actions were truly shameless and despicable, and they will be addressed appropriately as we litigate our case in civil court.

Figueroa is pursuing a claim of sexual harassment against both Fletcher and MTS and a claim of whistleblower retaliation against MTS under California Labor Code section 1102.5(b):

Labor Code section 1102.5(b) prohibits retaliation against an employee “for disclosing information, or because the employer believes that the employee disclosed or may disclose information … to a person with authority over the employee or another employee who has the authority to investigate, discover, or correct the violation or noncompliance, or for providing information to, or testifying before, any public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry, if the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation of or noncompliance with a local, state, or federal rule or regulation, regardless of whether disclosing the information is part of the employee’s job duties.”

So not only did Gonzalez threaten and intimidate a woman pursuing workplace sexual harassment/assault and whistleblower claims, she participated in defaming that woman when she did file a lawsuit. As an attorney and a member of the State Bar of California, it’s also inappropriate for Gonzalez to engage in such behavior.

Regarding these allegations, California attorney Kurt Schlichter, who practices labor law, tells RedState:

I don’t know anything about the facts of the case, and allegations in a complaint are merely allegations. If true, the threats would be at a minimum improper. They strike me as legally ridiculous. And they strike me as foolish. Again, I don’t know if what the allegations say is true or not; I merely hope they are not true, because if they are true, they would be disgraceful.

And, according to local journalist Steve Horn, Gonzalez has been at the offices of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors since Fletcher went off to rehab “doing damage control work.” What exactly does that mean? Perhaps the two women who resigned from Fletcher’s office this week can shed some light on that.

And Fletcher can’t credibly claim that he didn’t know what the rules were. Ironically, a bill co-sponsored by his wife in 2016 (before they were married), mandated sexual harassment prevention training for local elected officials.

lorena gonzalez fletcher mandatory sexual harassment training local officials
Press release regarding Gonzalez Fletcher bill to mandate sexual harassment training for local elected officials. CREDIT: Twitter, screenshot

Since Wednesday one other woman who worked with Fletcher has come forward with a claim that Fletcher touched her inappropriately and sent her sexually explicit texts in 2015 when she was 19 years old and an intern for his Three Wise Men foundation, and says that when she reported his conduct to her supervisor no action was taken. Fletcher’s office immediately produced an email from the time frame in which that supervisor and Fletcher discussed the woman’s allegations and dismissed them. The woman went on with her college career, and presumably, that incident has not affected her career. But given what’s been revealed about Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher’s actions in the case with Grecia Figueroa, and knowing how the couple deals with people they consider political enemies, it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that Fletcher has sexually harassed many other women and that he and his wife have harassed, intimidated, and threatened them into silence.

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