California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services Deputy Director Accused of Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Resulting in Delays for Wildfire Victims

Sacramento, California – A lawsuit filed at Sacramento County Superior Court accuses a deputy director for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) of sexual harassment and claims that retaliation resulted in a delay in state support for wildfire victims. The plaintiff in the case, identified as Kendra Bowyer, alleges that she experienced a year of inappropriate comments and advances from deputy director Ryan Buras, including non-consensual touching and trying to enter her bed while she was sleeping.

The lawsuit also accuses Cal OES of failing to respond to previous reports of harassment involving Buras. Cal OES stated that it had not been officially served with the lawsuit as of Tuesday afternoon and declined to comment further, citing the agency’s policy not to discuss personnel matters and active litigation. The agency emphasized that sexual harassment in any form will not be tolerated.

According to the lawsuit, Bowyer began working at Cal OES in 2019 and met Buras the following year during a disaster response. Bowyer claims that Buras exhibited inappropriate behavior from the start, attempting to have dinner alone with her and making suggestive comments. The lawsuit alleges that Buras called Bowyer at home to discuss his personal life and gave her preferential treatment that bypassed her direct supervisor. When Bowyer was deployed for wildfire efforts, Buras allegedly increased late-night phone calls and made inappropriate remarks about leaving his wife.

In one incident described in the lawsuit, Buras convinced Bowyer and a male co-worker to have dinner and stay the night at his apartment. Bowyer claims that she stayed in an upstairs bedroom, but Buras entered her bed and claimed he was cold. Another event mentioned in the lawsuit is Buras surprising Bowyer at her hotel for her birthday, taking her to a winery, and driving to a beach for a picnic. Bowyer felt trapped and attempted to escape the situation.

The lawsuit further alleges that Buras retaliated against Bowyer when she expressed her discomfort and requested that their relationship become strictly professional. This retaliation allegedly included Buras abruptly cutting off communication with Bowyer, failing to attend required executive meetings, causing delays in aid for disaster survivors. Bowyer also claims that she was accused of falsifying her timesheet and eventually went on medical leave due to anxiety and depression. The lawsuit suggests that Cal OES was aware of previous instances of sexual harassment and retaliation.

Another lawsuit by former Cal OES manager Steven Larson is mentioned in the filing. Larson alleges that he faced retaliation after reporting harassment complaints against Buras made by multiple women. According to Maria Bourn, Bowyer’s attorney, Buras created a toxic workplace and retaliated when his advances were rejected. Bourn argues that Cal OES should have acted when warned about Buras, as the agency is responsible for running the State’s Sexual Assault Program. She calls for significant changes to prevent such incidents in the future.

In response to the allegations, Cal OES issued a statement asserting that sexual harassment has no place in the organization and will not be tolerated. The agency emphasized its commitment to maintaining a safe and respectful work environment and highlighted its long-standing programs, policies, and practices to prevent and respond to harassment and misconduct. Cal OES requires all employees to participate in annual sexual harassment prevention training.

The lawsuit against the deputy director of Cal OES brings attention to the issue of workplace sexual harassment and the potential consequences of an organization’s failure to take appropriate action. The legal action seeks accountability and invites discussions about the importance of addressing and preventing such misconduct in all workplaces.