A set of autumn hearing dates in a case accusing Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R-Visalia) of harassment and wrongful termination have been vacated, but the beleaguered legislator may still end up in court over the matter.
Janie Sustaita De Raadt, a former Mathis staffer, says she’s found a local attorney willing to pursue her ongoing complaint with the State Bar against her former attorney. The Visalia-based attorney will also file a new suit against her former boss, as well as his former chief of staff Justin Turner. De Raadt accused Mathis of allowing Turner to create a hostile workplace with his use of abusive and sexualized language.
However, De Raadt’s case against the California State Assembly, which included Mathis and Turner as defendants, was dismissed after her attorney of record in the matter failed to respond in a timely fashion. The case was dismissed with prejudice, meaning De Raadt cannot file a second similar suit against the state’s lower legislative body. She can, however, file new cases against Mathis and Turner.
“My case is only stronger now because he (Turner) got fired for the exact same thing he was doing to me,” De Raadt said.
Turner was reprimanded by the California Assembly speaker in November of 2020 after an investigation found he sent inappropriate messages of a sexual nature to an unidentified person. He appears to be no longer employed by Mathis’ office, though unsubstantiated rumor has it he still works with Mathis, who is a personal friend, in some capacity.
De Raadt, meanwhile, has been unable to pursue the matter as she recovers from a serious postoperative infection. She’ll be entirely back in action as soon as she has her feet beneath her, she says.
“I was sick. I almost died,” she said. “I just need two weeks to get a little stronger so I can understand what they’re telling me.”
Money Isn’t Justice
While De Raadt may make Mathis and Turner pay a financial penalty for their alleged inappropriate behavior, that doesn’t amount to justice in her mind.
“Mathis and Tuner were the ones harassing me, but the state failed to protect me,” she said.
When De Raadt reported the behavior, she was met with an indifference that allowed the behavior to continue. Because her case against the Assembly was dismissed with prejudice, it cannot be refiled.
“It’s not about the money, so I don’t think I can get justice,” De Raadt said. “I can’t hold the Assembly accountable for its behavior.”
Ideally, she’d like the Assembly to change its rules to better protect employees in cases like hers. She believes there is a culture of harassment fostered by the Assembly’s failure to act in her case and others like it.
“Nobody is above the law,” De Raadt said. “The assemblyman is not above the law. Turner is not above the law. The state is not above the law.”
Suing for damages, she says, isn’t satisfying, but it’s now her only recourse.
“All I can get from Mathis and Turner is money,” she said. “I need justice. I need the law changed.”
De Raadt would also like to change the pair’s attitude toward women, but she doesn’t believe they are capable of understanding.
“It’s (the suit) just to teach them their behavior is wrong, and I don’t think they’ll understand their behavior is wrong,” she said.