Wikimedia Commons/ CA Governor's Office
Just months after a secret audio recording exposed a prominent Los Angeles County labor leader of participating in a racist discussion with City Council members, the highest-ranking labor leader in California is being accused of violating the very same labor laws she professes to fight for.
In a shocking lawsuit filed in San Diego Superior Court by Grecia Figueroa on March 28, 2023, Lorena Gonzalez, who is the head of the powerful California Labor Federation, is accused of making “threats of bullying, intimidation, and defamatory legal action” against a woman who claims her employer violated her employment rights under state labor law.
“Given the serious allegations contained in the lawsuit, we are calling on Lorena Gonzalez to immediately resign from her post as she has lost all credibility to speak on labor law and workplace conditions in California,” says Carl DeMaio, Chairman of Reform California.
“Should Gonzalez not voluntarily resign, the individual labor unions that comprise the California Labor Federation should remove her immediately from her post,” DeMaio continues.
In the lawsuit, Figueroa claims Gonzalez’s husband – San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher – sexually harassed during her employment at a government agency he oversaw. The lawsuit accuses Fletcher of two counts of sexual assault and wrongful termination. On March 29, Fletcher admitted an affair and announced his resignation from office.
Where Gonzalez’s own behavior enters the picture is when the lawsuit alleges that Gonzalez engaged in the retaliation against Figueroa for simply asserting her rights under California labor law.
“Specifically, on 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.” (Emphasis added, Claim 59 of Figueroa v. Fletcher, MTS San Diego, Case Number 37-203-00012828-CU-OE-CTL)
Worse than these alleged threats, on Wednesday, March 29, an attorney acting on behalf of Lorena Gonzalez issued an alarming statement that read:
“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.” (Emphasis added, statement by attorney Danielle Hultenius Moore, March 29, 2023)
“It can be illegal to threaten to bring a false claim of extortion against an individual in a desperate last-minute attempt to bully them into dropping their rights under California labor law,” says DeMaio.
“Yet this scandal is even worse than that because the individual allegedly engaging in this egregious conduct is Lorena Gonzalez – who is the very person who claims to be fighting for these labor protections,” says DeMaio.
DeMaio says the facts of the matter raise significant legal liabilities for both Gonzalez and Fletcher. Fletcher has admitted an inappropriate affair with Figueroa. Figueroa was terminated from the government agency that Fletcher leads. While Fletcher has a right to dispute the allegations of wrongful termination and sexual harassment/assault, Figueroa also has every right to hire counsel to press her claims with her former employer and, if not satisfied with the resolution there, she has every right under California law to pursue her claims in court.
While Gonzalez has repeatedly and publicly stated that the public and labor leaders should “believe the accuser” in all cases, Gonzalez posted on social media on March 29 that her husband would be “cleared of false accusations.”
“I challenge every board member of the California Labor Federation to ask themselves: what message is Lorena Gonzalez sending to all California workers and sexual harassment victims with her misconduct in this case?” DeMaio asks.
“If Lorena Gonzalez does not resign and if the California Labor Federation board does not remove her, they have lost all credibility on workplace issues in our state,” DeMaio concludes.