Everybody who’s reading this blog by now knows that Mayra Alvarez, who is José Huizar’s former scheduler, is suing him for harassment, retaliation, and various other important matters. David Zahniser had an excellent story about it in the Times a few weeks ago when the suit was filed. And David Zahniser covered some important allegations. For instance, Huizar ordered Alvarez to alter his calendars in front of public records act requests and when she objected he took away her responsible position as scheduler and made her into his receptionist. And to work on the 2020 election campaign of Mrs. José Huizar on City time. And so on.
But the Times, for whatever reason, journalistic integrity, admirable prudence, pure good sense, lack of space, an instinct for dignity, didn’t provide a copy of the complaint and also didn’t reveal many of the most lurid and yet entirely believable allegations against José Huizar who, it turns out, is even rapier than we thought, and that was already pretty damn rapey. Fortunately we here at MK.Org suffer from not one of those impediments! The purpose of tonight’s post is to fill both of the gaps left by David Zahniser’s reporting. The second comes first. Here’s the initial complaint filed by Mayra Alvarez in Los Angeles County Superior Court on October 22, 2018.
And what kind of creepy crapola did José Huizar get up to? All kinds of stuff, from repeatedly texting the word “tea” to her from his office in response to her putatively slow tea service to obsessively stalking her Facebook and her Instagram and emailing her with extra work every time she posted a picture of her with her husband.
Huizar’s extramarital affairs have been widely reported, but this is the first time we learn that he, evidently out of wildly hypocritical jealousy, forbade some of his own male staffers from working closely with his paramours. And his brother, it seems, is a butt-grabber, and José Huizar in response is an intimidator of women whose butts are grabbed, cause it’s going to make him look bad if they complain. And, because why not, he also evidently threw stuff at Mayra Alvarez during his tea tantrums. All in all he’s bad news indeed. Turn the page for transcribed selections from the complaint.
1. For nearly a decade, Plaintiff Mayra Alvarez worked for and was loyal to Jose Huizar, the City of Los Angeles’ Councilmember for the 14th District. Mrs. Alvarez began working for Huizar as an intern in 2010 while she was still in high school. She needed a certain number of community service hours to graduate but, regardless, enjoyed contributing to a cause and political leader who, at least at the time, she truly believed in. Mrs. Alvarez came back to work for Huizar after high school and, over the ensuing years, ascended the ranks within the Councilmember’s office.
2. In August 2015, Huizar promoted Mrs. Alvarez to the position of Executive Assistant and Scheduler. As Huizar’s Executive Assistant and Scheduler, Mrs. Alvarez was primarily responsible for performing the initial assessment of the myriad requests to meet with Huizar as well as invitations for him to attend events. The requests came from lobbyists, campaign donors, other community and political leaders, businesspersons, and constituents.
In other words, Mrs. Alvarez was among Huizar’s chief executive “gatekeepers.” She would field the requests, research the requesting party, and provide Huizar with a written assessment of whether the meeting or event request was one he should accept because it aligned his political agenda.
3. In that capacity, Mrs. Alvarez was available to Huizar essentially 24/7. She was by no means Huizar’s secretary or receptionist; Mrs. Alvarez was among his senior executive staff. Mrs. Alvarez was young, savvy, and fully committed to the office and her burgeoning career.
4. However, as Mrs. Alvarez sought to balance the demands of her career and Huizar’s political agenda with her desire to start a family, Huizar began to punish and retaliate against Mrs. Alvarez for diverting her attention to anyone or anything other than him.
5. In October 2017, Mrs. Alvarez informed Huizar that she and her husband were expecting their first child. She advised Huizar, as well as the rest of his staff, that she would be taking a 12-week maternity leave following the birth of her son in April 2018.
6. As described in further detail below, Huizar harassed and retaliated against Mrs. Alvarez on account of her pregnancy and resultant disability and maternity leaves. Among other things, Huizar unreasonably and unjustifiably increased Mrs. Alvarez’s workload, became bitterly impatient with the speed with which she was completing assignments, and unsympathetically criticized Mrs. Alvarez for taking time off to attend prenatal appointments. Huizar’s behavior caused Mrs. Alvarez so much stress and anxiety that she began having preterm labor pains at just 16 weeks into her pregnancy and later endured two miscarriage scares.
7. Huizar had also begun to retaliating against Mrs. Alvarez on account of her voicing discomfort with some of his and the office’s practices which she believed violated local, state, and federal law. For instance, the Los Angeles Times annually requested copies of Huizar’s official calendar pursuant to the California Public Records Act. As Huizar’s Executive Assistant and Scheduler, Mrs. Alvarez was primarily responsible for maintaining that calendar. However, Huizar would direct Mrs. Alvarez to alter his calendar entries in order to conceal the nature of his meetings from public scrutiny. Huizar did not want the media or general public to know that he was meeting with certain lobbyists and developers—particularly when their particular issue or project was soon to be considered by the City Council or the Planning and Land Use Management Committee (for which Huizar is the chairperson). Those meetings were, of course, often followed close in time by donations to Huizar’s campaign coffers. Mrs. Alvarez did not believe that there was any legal basis to withhold the information Huizar directed her to conceal, and voiced her concern about the potential legal and ethical violations of withholding the information, but was compelled by Huizar to do so nonetheless.
8. Mrs. Alvarez also voiced her concern with respect to the potential legal and ethical violations as concerned the candidacy of Huizar’s wife, Richelle Huizar, for his seat on the City Council. Although Richelle Huizar only recently announced her candidacy to succeed her husband in September 2018, planning for her potential bid began more than a year ago — and did so on the City’s time and dime. Despite local, state, and federal laws prohibiting government employees from engaging in political activity on the job, Huizar required his City staffers to conduct meetings in order to plan Richelle Huizar’s campaign. Those meetings were formally calendared and occurred during normal City work hours and within City properties. Furthermore, Huizar directed his staffers to create a secret email address for Richelle Huizar through which they could communicate with her, share his City calendar with her so that she would know which events to attend that might help publicize her potential candidacy, as well as to send her briefings and “talking points” on certain issues. Mrs. Alvarez did not believe that ethics laws permitted City staffers to engage in campaign activities for Huizar’s wife while on City time, but was compelled by Huizar to do so nonetheless.
9. Mrs. Alvarez also voiced concern that Huizar was having an affair with one of his City staffers. This caused friction in the office amongst many staffers, Mrs. Alvarez among them, particularly because many believed that Huizar’s mistress received more favorable treatment from him with respect to assignments and more leniency with respect to deadlines and attendance.
10. In April 2018, Mrs. Alvarez went on maternity leave. She was still Huizar’s Executive Assistant and Administrative Scheduler when she left. When she returned from maternity leave, however, she was not. Huizar demoted Mrs. Alvarez to an office manager position. In other words, Huizar reduced Mrs. Alvarez’s executive-level role to that of a receptionist. In fact, that is where Mrs. Alvarez was physically relocated when she returned from leave; whereas she used to sit in the anteroom right outside of Huizar’s office along with his other senior advisors, when Mrs. Alvarez returned from maternity leave she was moved to the receptionists’ desk at the front of the Councilmember’s office suite to greet visitors and answer phones.
11. Mrs. Alvarez’s demotion resulted in the loss of all of her pre-leave duties and responsibilities. She was reduced from being the executive adviser primarily responsible for scheduling meetings with Huizar to being the receptionist primarily responsible for reserving conference rooms and ordering ink for the printers. The office manager position was not the same or comparable as her previous position and there was no legitimate business reason unrelated to Mrs. Alvarez’s pregnancy, medical leave, gender, and internal complaints that justified the demotion.
12. And Mrs. Alvarez was humiliated. Everyone knew she had been demoted. Despite how Huizar and his Chief of Staff tried to reframe the reassignment, no staffer would ever consider a move from a position as the Councilmember’s Executive Scheduler with direct influence over he and the meetings he takes with lobbyists and developers—to a position as the office’s lead receptionist with direct influence over ordering office supplies—to be anything other than a demotion. Huizar rendered Mrs. Alvarez useless to the office and, consequently, she had no reasonable alternative but to resign in July 2018.
13. Huizar’s decision to demote Mrs. Alvarez was retaliatory in nature. Among other reasons, Huizar demoted Mrs. Alvarez as reprisal for: (i) taking disability leave in advance of her pregnancy; (ii) taking maternity leave to give birth to a child and bond with her newborn son; (iii) voicing concerns and complaining about having to alter Huizar’s calendars in response to requests made pursuant to the California Public Records Act; (iv) voicing concerns and complaining about having to engage in political campaign activities for Huizar’s wife during normal City work hours and while utilizing City resources; and (v) voicing concerns and complaining about the preferential treatment Huizar was giving to a City staffer with whom he was having an extramarital affair.
14. The proffered basis for Mrs. Alvarez’s demotion was pretextual and the decision by Huizar to demote Mrs. Alvarez, validated by other senior staff and managing agents, was rooted in retaliatory animus based upon Mrs. Alvarez’s pregnancy, medical leave, gender, and internal complaints.
A. Mrs. Alvarez’s Early Employment with Huizar
33. In or about December 2010, while she was still in high school, Mrs. Alvarez began working as an unpaid intern in Huizar’s Boyle Heights Field Office.
34. The following month, in or about January 2011, based upon her performance and commitment, Mrs. Alvarez was asked to accept a 3-month internship to assist with Huizar’s 2011 reelection campaign, which she did. In that capacity, she helped make presentations at high schools within Huizar’s district to generate voter excitement and encourage turnout on Election Day. Mrs. Alvarez was still in high school herself at the time and accepted the internship as a means of accruing the community service hours required for graduation.
35. In or about January 2012, Mrs. Alvarez accepted another internship at Huizar’s main City Hall office, this time working closely with Francine Godoy, who was then Huizar’s Deputy Chief of Staff.
36. Mrs. Alvarez graduated from high school in June 2012, but was soon approached by Godoy with another job offer. In or about July 2012, Godoy offered Mrs. Alvarez a position to help plan the events surrounding the unveiling of the statute of Antonio Aguilar statute at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, which she accepted. Mrs. Alvarez worked closely with Godoy for several months, even sharing office space with her, and was aware of Huizar’s extramarital affair with her.
37. In or about October 2012, Mrs. Alvarez was offered a temporary position to work at the front desk of Huizar’s City Hall office suite as an administrative assistant, which she accepted. In that capacity, Mrs. Alvarez performed general reception duties; she greeted visitors, answered phones, and the like.
38. On or about February 2, 2014, Mrs. Alvarez became a fulltime City employee,
continuing in the role of an administrative assistant within Huizar’s office at City Hall.
39. In or about December 2014, Mrs. Alvarez took a leave of absence from her City employment so that she could work on Huizar’s 2015 reelection campaign without running afoul of any laws proscribing government employees’ involvement in political activities. Huizar made Mrs. Alvarez his campaign’s Boyle Heights Area Director.
40. Following a successful reelection bid, Mrs. Alvarez returned to her position with the City in or about March 2015 and was offered an elevated Special Assistant position within Huizar’s office, which she accepted.
B. Mrs. Alvarez’s Employment as Huizar’s Executive Assistant and Scheduler
41. In or about August 2015, Mrs. Alvarez was offered the position of Executive Assistant and Scheduler to Huizar, which she accepted. It was a promotion. Mrs. Alvarez was trained to take on that position for the next month and began her first day in that role on September 5, 2015.
42. As Huizar’s Executive Assistant and Scheduler, Mrs. Alvarez was primarily responsible for performing the initial assessment of the myriad requests to meet with Huizar as well as invitations for him to attend events. The requests came from lobbyists, campaign donors, other community and political leaders, businesspersons, and constituents. In other words, Mrs. Alvarez was among Huizar’s chief executive “gatekeepers.” She would field the requests, research the requesting party, and provide Huizar with a written assessment of whether the meeting or event request was one he should accept because it aligned his political agenda. As Huizar’s Executive Assistant and Scheduler, Mrs. Alvarez was available to Huizar essentially 24/7.
43. Huizar was challenging to work for, to say the least. Given the nature of the job and local politics, Mrs. Alvarez certainly expected Huizar to be demanding; but being rude and unthanking in his demands was the rule with Huizar rather than the exception. And he would often chastise and verbally abuse Mrs. Alvarez and other staffers for mistakes and oversights that were of his own making. For instance, Huizar would frequently scold Mrs. Alvarez and other staffers for not following up on requests for him to accept positions on certain honorary committees that other Councilmembers had accepted. But they were often requests that Mrs. Alvarez had indeed presented to Huizar but that which he declined; he just did not remember and would blow up nonetheless. Huizar would often blow up over petty issues as well, like the temperature of his tea that he demanded be personally served to him in Council Chambers. If his tea was not waiting for him when he sat at his seat, he would repeatedly text Mrs. Alvarez—“Tea” “Tea” Tea” “Tea” “Tea,” “Tea”—like a petulant child and then chastise her after the fact if the tea was not hot enough when it got to him.
44. The job was also demanding in that Huizar saw no boundary between his staffers’ responsibility for assisting him with his work agenda as opposed to his personal life. Huizar frequently demanded that Mrs. Alvarez and other staffers pick up his dry-cleaning, take his car to get washed, drop off and pick up his children from school, and even go to his house to let his dog out to poop.
45. Nonetheless, Mrs. Alvarez complied with Huizar’s personal requests while also balancing the demands of assessing his meeting and appearance requests and managing his calendar. And she excelled at her job. Mrs. Alvarez never received a failing performance rating during her tenure as Huizar’s Executive Assistant and Scheduler nor at any other time during her employment with the City.
46. Still, Mrs. Alvarez endured a tremendous amount of angst and stress on account of her employment with Huizar. For instance, while staffing Huizar at an event in 2014, his brother groped Mrs. Alvarez by grabbing her butt in front of dozens of onlookers—Huizar among them. She was violated and humiliated. Mrs. Alvarez wanted to report the incident, but did not want to jeopardize her job or standing with Huizar, nor suffer any retaliation. And Huizar lobbied Mrs. Alvarez to keep the matter quiet, since it might negatively impact the public’s perception of him. So she did.
47. Mrs. Alvarez was also interviewed by the City Attorney’s Office as part of Godoy’s 2013 sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit against Huizar and the City. She had never been involved in a lawsuit before and was unsettled by the experience. She was also unsettled by the lobbying Huizar seemed to be doing amongst those staffers that he knew would be interviewed or deposed in a not-so-subtle effort to persuade them to give testimony favorable to him and not Godoy.1 As before, Mrs. Alvarez did not want to jeopardize her job or standing with Huizar, nor suffer any retaliation.
48. Beginning in or about November 2016, Huizar directed Mrs. Alvarez to alter his calendars for the years 2015 and 2016 to conceal the nature of his meetings. The Los Angeles Times had requested copies of Huizar’s official calendars pursuant to the California Public Records Act. However, Huizar did not want to fully release his calendars because he did not want the public to be able to scrutinize the nature of his meetings. Huizar did not want the public to know that he was meeting with certain lobbyists and developers—particularly when their particular issue or project was soon to be considered by the City Council or the Planning and Land Use Management Committee (for which Huizar is the chairperson)—and particularly when the meeting was followed close in time by a donation to his campaign coffers.
49. So, in or about November 2016, Huizar directed Mrs. Alvarez to begin the process of altering his calendar entries so that he could withhold certain information from public disclosure. Huizar would go through the calendar entries and, for information he did not want disclosed, direct Mrs. Alvarez to move that particular information into a section of his calendar that would not appear on the printed version produced to the Los Angeles Times. Mrs. Alvarez made changes to Huizar’s 2015 and 2016 calendars in the same manner (but kept copies of the originals for whistleblower protection).
50. Mrs. Alvarez did not believe that there was any legal basis to withhold the information Huizar directed her to conceal and, in February 2017, voiced her concern about the potential legal and ethical violations of concealing the information to Huizar, Paul Habib (Huizar’s Chief of Staff), as well as to Rick Coca (Huizar’s Communications Director). However, Mrs. Alvarez’s complaints were rebuffed and she was compelled by Huizar to make the changes nonetheless. She was then directed to delete all of the emails concerning the calendar modifications.
52. Plaintiff is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that the internal complaints she raised about altering Huizar’s calendar entries engendered extreme retaliatory animus in Huizar toward Mrs. Alvarez, who was angered and disappointed that Mrs. Alvarez was not being a “team player” and challenging his authority and decision-making.
53. In or about this same time, February 2017, Mrs. Alvarez became aware that Huizar was engaged in another extramarital affair with a City staffer. This caused friction in the office because many staffers, Mrs. Alvarez among them, believed that Huizar’s mistress received more favorable treatment from him with respect to assignments and more leniency with respect to deadlines and attendance. Moreover, Huizar would tell certain male staffers that they could not work with his mistress, which constrained their ability to take on projects for which they would otherwise be responsible and eager to execute.
2. Huizar Harassed and Retaliated Against Mrs. Alvarez for Announcing Her Pregnancy
54. In or about March 2017, Mrs. Alvarez began a relationship with a man who is now her husband. As is common in this day and age, Mrs. Alvarez would intermittently post images of she and her husband on her various social media platforms (e.g., Facebook, Instagram). At the time, Mrs. Alvarez had allowed Huizar to “follow” her on those accounts. However, she eventually grew wary of allowing Huizar to follow her because it seemed that every time she would post a photograph of she and her husband—even if it was a picture of them doing something on a weekend—Huizar would text or email Mrs. Alvarez to give her some random task or inquire about the status of an assignment. There was never anything urgent or pressing about the issue Huizar would contact Mrs. Alvarez about; he just could not abide the notion that those working for him might have something else to do in their lives that did not revolve around him.
55. It was somewhat amusing at first. Mrs. Alvarez would post a photograph of she and her husband and then count the minutes it took Huizar—ostensibly having seen the picture and seen that she was out living a life unrelated to him—to send her a text or email about some superfluous issue. But it soon became harassing and abusive. Huizar would berate Mrs. Alvarez for not completing tasks that she had long since completed but that Huizar had clearly forgotten about, and criticize her about the quality of work product that he had previously praised or otherwise taken no issue with. Huizar had even begun complaining to other staffers that Mrs. Alvarez was suddenly not focusing on her work (that is, complaining that she was not focused solely on him).
56. One day, in October 2017, Huizar even threw a heavy 4-inch binder at Mrs. Alvarez. Huizar had returned from a City Council meeting and was complaining that Mrs. Alvarez was purportedly late in bringing his scheduling request binder (and hot tea) down to him in chambers. So, Huizar walked past Mrs. Alvarez’s desk and barked, “Next time, have my book down to me on time!”—and then threw the binder at Mrs. Alvarez and hit her in the chest with it. Two other senior staffers witnessed the incident and, like Mrs. Alvarez, were appalled by Huizar’s behavior.
57. Things got so bad that, in May 2017, Mrs. Alvarez blocked Huizar from following her on Facebook and Instagram so that she would not be targeted by him for retaliation on account of having a personal life.
58. In September 2017, Mrs. Alvarez and her husband learned that they were pregnant with their first child.
59. In October 2017, Mrs. Alvarez personally informed Huizar that she was pregnant.
60. That same month, October 2017, Mrs. Alvarez also announced her pregnancy during an Executive Meeting. Huizar was present at that meeting as were his senior advisors and other members of his executive staff.
61. Plaintiff is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that Huizar was angry that Mrs. Alvarez was pregnant. He knew that her pregnancy meant that she would have to take time off from work for prenatal doctor appointments and that Mrs. Alvarez would eventually take maternity leave, and was frustrated by how her temporary absence might impact him. Thereafter, Huizar began telling other staffers that Mrs. Alvarez was not focused, that she suddenly had an “attendance problem,” and that he should think about replacing her.
62. Huizar’s complaints about Mrs. Alvarez’s attendance were unfounded. For instance, Huizar would often complain that Mrs. Alvarez was AWOL when someone (often his mistress) would tell him that she was not at her desk. However, as was the case well before her pregnancy, Mrs. Alvarez would routinely work out of one of Huizar’s field offices when his executive team was scheduled to have a meeting there. Nor had Mrs. Alvarez lost focus on her job. To the contrary, even on the days on which she was battling morning sickness or attending doctors’ appointments, Mrs. Alvarez would log onto her computer and work remotely to update Huizar’s calendar, continue evaluating his scheduling requests, and perform the other tasks and assignments for which she was responsible.
3. Huizar Harassed and Retaliated Against Mrs. Alvarez for Voicing Concerns and Complaints about the Legality of Engaging in Political Activities for Richelle Huizar on City Time
63. Things became even more uncomfortable for Mrs. Alvarez when, in or about June 2017, Huizar began requiring his staff to hold meetings to plan and launch Richelle Huizar’s campaign for his seat when term limits require him to step down in 2020. Mrs. Alvarez was unsettled by the potential ethical and legal consequences of Huizar’s requirement that she and other staffers conduct those meetings to begin with. Huizar frequently required his staffers to conduct these meetings during normal City work hours and in City properties, which were calendared as an “Executive No. 2 Meeting.” Furthermore, Huizar directed his staffers to create a secret email address for Richelle Huizar through which they could communicate with her, share his City calendar with her so that she would know which events to attend that might help publicize her potential candidacy, as well as to send her briefings and “talking points” on certain issues. Those materials were often created by Huizar’s staffers on City time and specifically for Richelle Huizar.
64. Mrs. Alvarez was solely responsible for updating Richelle Huizar’s calendar with meetings and events her husband’s executive staff believed she should attend to increase her name recognition and publicize her impending candidacy. Mrs. Alvarez was also responsible for personally notifying Richelle Huizar about the addition to her calendar and explaining why she should make the appearance.
67. Still, in January 2018, Huizar asked Mrs. Alvarez to organize a special program that would generate name recognition for his wife and publicize Richelle Huizar’s impending campaign. Mrs. Alvarez declined Huizar’s request since she was already leery of engaging in political activity on City time and did not want to continue doing so.
68 . Huizar was angered by Mrs. Alvarez’s rejection of his request. Plaintiff is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that the internal complaints she raised about the above-described on-the-job political activity for Richelle Huizar engendered extreme retaliatory animus in Huizar toward Mrs. Alvarez, who was angered and disappointed that Mrs. Alvarez was not being a “team player” and challenging his authority and decision-making.
69. As a result, Huizar continued to personally harass and retaliate against Mrs. Alvarez. Among other things, Huizar continued hassling Plaintiff both during and outside of normal work hours; unreasonably and unjustifiably increasing Plaintiffs workload; unreasonably and unjustifiably criticizing the speed with which Plaintiff was completing assignments; unreasonably and unjustifiably criticizing the quality of Plaintiff s work product and general job execution; questioning and criticizing Plaintiff for taking sick and vacation leave to attend medical appointments; throwing things at Plaintiff and otherwise invading her personal space; and making snide comments about Plaintiffs personal life.
4. Huizar Demoted Mrs. Alvarez Following Her Return from Disability and Maternity Leave
70. In January 2018, Mrs. Alvarez was still early in her pregnancy. Yet, Huizar’s behavior caused Mrs. Alvarez so much stress and anxiety that she began having preterm labor pains at just 16 weeks and endured two miscarriage scares.
71. As a result, in February 2018, Mrs. Alvarez’s physician diagnosed her with a generalized anxiety, panic, and depressive disorder and placed her off of work as a consequence of her disability. Mrs. Alvarez provided her office and the City with all of the necessary doctors’ notes and leave paperwork incident to her healthcare providers’ diagnoses and disability leave orders. Huizar was aware of Mrs. Alvarez’s leave and that it was doctor-ordered.
72. Plaintiff is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that Mrs. Alvarez’ absence, taken for medical necessity, angered Huizar and engendered extreme retaliatory animus in Huizar toward Plaintiff. Huizar was angered and frustrated on account of the operational adjustments he would have to make in the office on account of Mrs. Alvarez’s temporary absence, such as finding another employee to stand in as his Executive Assistant and Scheduler during Mrs. Alvarez’s leave.
73. In April 2018, Mrs. Alvarez took maternity leave from the office.
74. Before she left on leave, Mrs. Alvarez trained another staffer on how to perform her job while she was out.
75. When she left on leave, Mrs. Alvarez still held the title and position of Executive Assistant and Scheduler.
76. Mrs. Alvarez was scheduled to return from leave on July 2, 2018.
77. In advance of her return, on June 27, 2018, Mrs. Alvarez emailed Huizar’s Chief of Staff, Paul Habib, to advise that she wanted to come into the office the week prior to her formal return date to get reacclimated. She wanted to confer with her temporary stand-in to catch up on the scheduling requests that had come in while she was on leave and to get an idea of what requests still needed evaluation, write-up, and follow-up.
78. Yet, Habib was oddly reticent about Mrs. Alvarez’s desire to transition back into the office. He responded via email on June 30, 2018, and directed Mrs. Alvarez not to return to the office and not to confer with any staff other than him until he could schedule a date and time for them to discuss her transition in person.
79. On July 3, 2018, Mrs. Alvarez returned to the office and met with Habib. During that meeting, at Huizar’s direction, Habib demoted Mrs. Alvarez to an office manager position.
80. Mrs. Alvarez expressed dismay at being demoted, but Habib told Mrs. Alvarez that the office manager position is where Huizar “needed her right now.” Habib then tried to mollify Mrs. Alvarez by telling her that the office manager position came with an increased salary. But Mrs. Alvarez is no fool. She knew the raise was just an attempt to cover up the discriminatory, harassing, and retaliatory nature of he and Huizar’s decision. And besides, the salary increase was merely $ 1,000—per year—as in, less than an extra $40 per paycheck- before taxes.
81. In any event, the office manager position was not the same as, nor comparable to, Mrs. Alvarez’s previous position and there was no legitimate business reason unrelated to Plaintiffs pregnancy, medical leave, gender, and internal complaints that justified the demotion.
82. Mrs. Alvarez’s demotion resulted in the loss of all of her pre-leave duties and responsibilities. She was reduced from being the executive adviser primarily responsible for scheduling meetings with Huizar to being the receptionist primarily responsible for reserving conference rooms and ordering ink for the printers. Mrs. Alvarez was removed from Huizar’s cadre of senior advisors and disinvited from attending any further executive team meetings. Huizar also revoked Mrs. Alvarez’s access to his calendar.
83. What’s more, the office manager responsibilities that Huizar assigned to Mrs. Alvarez were not even comparable to those given to the office manager that immediately preceded her in that role (and, incidentally, who also left the office as a result of Huizar’s retaliatory conduct). Among other things, the previous office manager had responsibility over funding requests and vendor contracts. Yet, Mrs. Alvarez was stripped of even those more sophisticated administrative duties. Instead, the version of office manager Huizar wanted Mrs.
Alvarez to fulfill involved only answering phones, greeting visitors, ordering office supplies and staffers’ business cards, and coordinating tours of City Hall.
84. In other words, Huizar reduced Mrs. Alvarez’s executive-level role to that of a receptionist. In fact, that is where Mrs. Alvarez was physically relocated when she returned from leave; whereas she used to sit in the anteroom right outside of Huizar’s office along with his other senior advisors, when Mrs. Alvarez returned from maternity leave she was moved to the receptionists’ desk at the front of the Councilmember’s office suite.
85. Huizar’s decision to demote Mrs. Alvarez was retaliatory in nature. Among other reasons, Huizar demoted Mrs. Alvarez as reprisal for: (i) taking disability leave in advance of her pregnancy; (ii) taking maternity leave to give birth to a child and bond with her newborn son; (iii) voicing concerns and complaining about having to alter Huizar’s calendars in response to requests made pursuant to the California Public Records Act; (iv) voicing concerns and complaining about having to engage in political campaign activities for Huizar’s wife during normal City work hours and while utilizing City resources; and (v) voicing concerns and complaining about the preferential treatment Huizar was giving to a City staffer with whom he was having an extramarital affair.
86 . The employee Mrs. Alvarez had trained to temporarily fulfill her role as Executive Assistant and Scheduler was upset about the change as well, since she was told that the position would be her new permanent job in the office. She confessed to Mrs. Alvarez that she told Habib that she did not want Mrs. Alvarez’s job, but was forced to accept the position notwithstanding Mrs. Alvarez’s impending return from leave.
87. As a result of being demoted and stripped of any meaningful function at the office, Mrs. Alvarez was constructively terminated. Huizar intentionally created and knowingly permitted working conditions that were so intolerable that any reasonable and comparably-situated employee would be compelled to resign.
88 . Mrs. Alvarez submitted a formal resignation communication to Habib on July 23, 2018.
89. She was humiliated. Mrs. Alvarez felt that she had no other option but to resign rather than endure the ridicule, shame, and uselessness associated with her demotion and diminished position in the office. No other staffer would ever reasonably conclude that being involuntarily reassigned from Huizar’s Executive Assistant and Scheduler to an office manager position was anything other than a punitive demotion.
90. Mrs. Alvarez’s last day as a City employee was July 31, 2018.
Image of José Huizar is ©2018 MichaelKohlhaas.Org. You might wanna see what it started out as.
- Huizar has apparently already begun doing the same thing in anticipation of this lawsuit. He has been incessantly calling and texting former staffers, even showing up unannounced at one’s house, in an attempt to intimidate and pressure them into “rethinking” their understanding of why Mrs. Alvarez was demoted. [footnote in original]