Local Media Failed to Report on Cardoza's Embarrassing Court Case
In 2003 the California State Assembly paid Pamela "P.J." Harper a former employee $540,000 and gave her healthcare coverage for herself and her husband for life! At the time this was one of the largest settlements paid out to a legislative employee. The suit stems from allegations that Harper was demoted and harassed for needing extra time to breastfeed her infant daughter. At that time Dennis Cardoza was serving as Chairman of the Assembly Rules Committee, the administrative arm of the State Assembly.
Harper had served as Director of the Legislative Travel Office for 10 years but claimed she was demoted while trying to arrange a schedule that would accommodate breast-feeding her newborn daughter. The suit further alleged that she was denied reasonable accommodations to breastfeed at 11am each morning and 3pm each afternoon; she was required to walk to the Capitol day-care center, a distance of several blocks, in order to nurse. California law at the time required a flexible schedule if breastfeeding was recommended by a doctor. According to Harper's attorney she suffered from infections and needed to nurse every 4 hours.
Harper alleged that upon her return from maternity leave she was placed under surveillance in the workplace and that the Assembly tracked the time she spent breastfeeding. Eventually the Rules Committee, Chaired by Dennis Cardoza, sent her a letter stating that "taking time away from work to nurse, at times other than your lunch hour, should be curtailed." She then talked
with former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, who was a personal friend and asked for his advice. The following day the job that she had held for ten years was abruptly given to someone else. As a result she quit.
Attorneys for Harper contended that her unreasonable and sever treatment by the Assembly may have been the result of a personal vendetta by then Rules Committee Chairman, Dennis Cardoza. During a deposition Cardoza stated that the employee may have been responsible for his inability to get a Capitol job after the so-called "Gang of Five" incident in the mid-1980's. Cardoza lost his job as chief of staff to then Assemblyman Gary Condit when his boss was involved in an attempted coup to topple former Speaker Willie Brown.
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This story went unreported in the local media at the time of the settlement because the Valley was gripped by the disappearance and murder of Ms. Chandra Levy. The firestorm ignited by the Levy case would eventually bring down Congressman Gary Condit and put Dennis Cardoza into Congress.
"As a father of two daughters and a grandfather of six granddaughters it is unbelievable to me that any man would compel and use his power to punish a working mother and her newborn nursing child in such a cruel and inhumane way. What kind of man would be so insensitive? I believe that we must do all we can to support the family in society and that every effort should be made to accommodate working mothers caring for their children," said Mike Berryhill, candidate for the 18th District.
Berryhill continued "As a taxpayer I am angry to learn that we'll be paying for this woman and her husband's medical bills for the rest of their lives, not because of any fault on their part, but because Dennis Cardoza's personal grudge. That money could have been used to buy school books and supplies, keep teachers in the classroom, and pay for more police officers on the beat,
but instead it is now being used to clean up Cardoza's mess. For too long Dennis Cardoza has gotten away with saying and doing practically anything he likes, enough is enough."