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By Brian Hews

Last week, Adriana Ruelas, longtime Capitol employee and former legislative director for State Senator Tony Mendoza, filed a “right to sue” discrimination complaint against Mendoza, the California Senate and two legislative officials. The complaint alleges that she was retaliated against for reporting sexual harassment by Mendoza.

Ruelas filed her complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, a necessary preliminary step the state requires before initiating a lawsuit.

Ruelas’ letter went to the state Senate, Mendoza, Secretary of the Senate Danny Alvarez and the head of the Senate’s Human Resource Department, Jeannie Oropeza.

The complaint alleges that she, along with two others, was fired in September “after they complained to superiors” about Mendoza’s inappropriate behavior toward a young woman assigned to his Sacramento office through a Sacramento State fellows program.

Secretary of the Senate Daniel Alvarez disputed Ruelas’ statement and timeline in a written statement he sent to the Sacramento Bee,.

Alvarez told the Bee, “One complaint by a terminated employee triggered an immediate investigation which has been ongoing since September 22nd.” Alvarez did not confirm that Ruelas was the terminated employee, though.

What is known is that Ruelas and two others were put on leave Sept. 22 and then fired on Sept. 30.

Secretary Alvarez partially disputed Ruelas account, saying, “Prior to that date [Sept. 22], no allegation was ever made to anyone at Senate Rules regarding misconduct on behalf of the Senator [Mendoza].” It is not apparent whether the “superiors” Ruelas says she lodged her complaints with were within the Senate Rules committee hierarchy or elsewhere in her management structure.

Now, a HMG-CN investigation has discovered that Ruelas has another disputed retaliation lawsuit underway simultaneously against another former state employer agency.

Court documents obtained exclusively by HMG-CN show that Ruelas recently filed a lawsuit against California’s Alcoholic Beverage and Control Department (ABC) for “retaliation, whistleblower retaliation, and failure to prevent retaliation.”

Her attorneys for the ABC lawsuit are the Bohm Law Group in Sacramento while her attorney for the Mendoza case is Micah Star Liberty of Liberty Law based out of Oakland.

Similar to the Mendoza complaint, Ruelas alleged the offenses were carried out by her superiors.

In a move that is certain to raise questions about whether the ABC complaint stemmed from Ruelas’ intentions to deliver a political payback, the 23-page lawsuit was filed on Oct 13, 2017, just two weeks after Ruelas was fired from her Mendoza post.

Even more suspect, Ruelas waited for three months, “after going through hell for three years” after she received the July 2017 right to sue [the ABC] letter.

Ruelas began working for ABC in January 2013. She claimed in her lawsuit that, after Sept. 2013 when Timothy Gorsuch was hired, she was “subjected to years of racist, sexist and homophobic abuse.”

She formally complained and was “immediately labelled a ‘pot stirrer’ and troublemaker” and alleged further “coworkers I complained about made it their mission to drive me out of the department.”

Ruelas said it got so bad she had to take medical leave on Aug 27, 2016.

and was “forced to resign” on Oct 14, 2016.

Even though she claimed severe emotional stress and depression, Ruelas did not waste time and soon secured another government position in Mendoza’s office.

Just days after her resignation from ABC, in fact, she was hired before the month elapsed by Mendoza’s chief of staff, Eusevio Padilla.

According to Mendoza, Padilla did not share Ruelas’ previous employment issues with him prior to offering Ruelas the new position.

During her employment by Mendoza, Ruelas continued to secretly file complaints with different agencies related to her ABC-retaliation claim.

For example, Ruelas inquired about an investigation into her complaints on Dec. 8, 2016, filed a complaint with the California Government Claims Programs April 5, 2017, and filed another complaint with the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency on April 24, 2017

Ruelas eventually “exhausted her procedural remedies” and filed a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. She received notice from FEH giving her the right to sue in a letter sent July 2017.

For unknown reasons, despite three months to act, Ruelas chose to file the ABC lawsuit days after she was dismissed by Mendoza.

Now Ruelas has embarked on another possible retaliation lawsuit, filing a right to sue letter Jan. 3, 2018 against Mendoza, the California Senate and two legislative officials.

HMG-CN left messages with Alvarez and texted Ruelas for comment, neither official responded.

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