BOISE, Idaho (AP) — As a young woman fresh out of law school and ready to launch her legal career, Lourdes Matsumoto was aware of the dangers of being labeled a problematic employee if she raised concerns about her supervisor.
She had been hired to serve as a deputy legal counsel and executive assistant for the Idaho State Controller’s office in August 2016. Yet, almost immediately, Matsumoto says something was off. From her perspective, women were being given lower raises and fewer promotions while a top aide — Chief of Staff Dan Goicoechea — routinely boasted about his sexual escapades with current or previous subordinate women.
“What my situation showed is that no workplace is immune from harassment,” said Matsumoto on Friday while talking to reporters, just one day after settling with the controller’s office over her racial and sexual harassment allegations.
Matsumoto said Friday that she was terrified to file a tort claim in September. Her allegations went public not only before Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein faced reports of sexual misconduct, but also before the popular #MeToo campaign exploded across social media.
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She had first attempted to address the problem by filing a complaint with the controller’s office in July. However, she later filed a tort claim after Goicoechea left the controller’s office once the internal investigation was completed to work as a supervisor at the Idaho State Department of Education.
According to her seven-page claim, Goicoechea engaged in abusive language and violent acts in conversations involving Matsumoto and others.
This included Goicoechea allegedly making discriminatory statements about various ethnicities in front of employees and once punching a hole in the wall inside the Controller’s office after learning his daughter was readmitted to the hospital. A separate employee later put a picture frame over the hole.
The case has since been settled with the controller’s office agreeing to give Matsumoto an $83,000 cash payment and not rehire Goicoechea for the next five years — although he is free to work at any other state agency. The controller’s office didn’t admit any liability but will include more anti-harassment training for its employees.
“If I did have a chance to talk to him today, I would say ‘Your actions didn’t just hurt my feelings in a moment, it had a permanent impact on me. And I would hope you would understand that you wouldn’t want your daughter or your sister or your mom to be talked to in that manner,'” Matsumoto said, adding that Goicoechea has not reached out or apologized to her since her tort claim was filed.
Neither Goicoechea nor his attorney have returned multiple requests for comment.
Republican State Controller Brandon Woolf said Thursday he takes responsibility for setting a safe working environment.
“I believe everyone must be treated with respect and valued for their hard work, and any form of workplace harassment or behavior that makes anyone uncomfortable is not acceptable,” he said.
Woolf is up for re-election in 2018.
Meanwhile, Matsumoto says she has since joined a private law firm in Boise and has no immediate plans to rejoin the public sector.
“I just hope that I can somehow help anyone who is going through something similar,” she said. “To know that you’re not alone out there is really important.”