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California Treasurer sued for alleged sexual harassment and racial discrimination

According to a complaint filed last week in Sacramento Superior Court, California Treasurer Fiona Ma is being sued by a former employee for sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and wrongful termination, reports The Sacramento Bee. The former employee Judith Blackwell, who is Black, claimed that Ma exposed her naked back to her and gifted her marijuana.

“Plaintiff felt the work environment to be hostile as she felt her employment was contingent on her accepting Defendant Ma’s sexual advances,” Waukeen McCoy, Blackwell’s lawyer wrote in the complaint, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. “As a result of Plaintiff denying Defendant Ma’s advances, she was terminated from her employment.”

Ma became a treasurer in 2019. In January 2020, she fired the executive director of the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee and filled that position with Blackwell. According to Blackwell, in February 2020 the two were staying at a hotel in Sacramento when Ma exposed her naked backside which made her “uncomfortable,” reports the OCR. She said she didn’t say anything because she was “fearful to comment on Ms. Ma’s lewd behavior.”

In May, the two shared an Airbnb in Sacramento and Blackwell said Ma exposed her naked backside and climbed into Blackwell’s bed. Blackwell said she pretended to sleep “out of fear and confusion.”

Blackwell also claimed that Ma gifted her marijuana edibles, jewelry, paintings, a closer parking spot to the office, and promised to promote her to deputy treasurer after she fired a black person who was holding that position.

But in September 2020, Blackwell suffered a stroke which put her out of work for 2 months. When she came back Blackwell lost her parking space and the deputy treasurer position was given to someone else, according to the complaint. Additionally, Blackwell said she was given a work amount normally for two people and eventually fired in January. That position was filled by Nancee Robles who Blackwell referred to as a “less-qualified Caucasian female.”

Fiona Ma denied the claims and said she refused multiple attempts at settlement and will fight the case.

“I am saddened and disappointed by these baseless claims,” Ma wrote in an email to The Sacramento Bee. “I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support I’ve received today. To set the record straight, we have repeatedly refused to respond to the attorney’s attempts to settle. We look forward to bringing the truth to light in court.”

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