I mentioned in last night’s Roundup that one of the Herman Cain’s accusers of sexual harassment from his days running the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s actually wants to speak out about the incidents, but is barred by a confidentiality agreement. This highlights the one-sided nature of these agreements. Cain, when he’s gotten around to remembering the issue, has said that he was falsely accused and even gone into detail about, in his view, innocuous remarks and comments. But the woman cannot offer her side of the story at all.
Now her lawyer is saying that Cain has violated the agreement:
The lawyer for one of the women who accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment said his client might get a chance to speak publicly about the allegations because the GOP presidential candidate violated the confidentiality agreement between the two.
Attorney Joel Bennett told CBS’s “The Early Show” on Wednesday that his client hasn’t spoken publicly because of the confidentiality agreement, but that Cain’s comments might have cleared a path.
“There was more than one incident that my client received sexual harassment,” Bennett said. “She would like to speak out for the record, only because Mr. Cain has stated that he didn’t sexually harass anyone, that there wasn’t any substance to the allegations, and basically made it look like she was some type of frivolous claimant looking for money.”
According to Bennett, one of the stipulations of the confidentiality agreement was that neither party could make disparaging remarks about the other. Bennett said Cain violated that agreement on Fox News on Monday when he said that he had been told that the accuser’s performance in the workplace “was not up to par.”
Incidentally, this is not the accuser who the New York Times reported received $35,000, or a year’s salary, as part of her settlement on sexual harassment charges.
I have to say that most confidentiality agreements I know about don’t have that extra clause in it. Usually it’s that the recipient of the settlement agrees not to say anything about the issue at hand and that’s it. But according to the lawyer, there was this extra clause, and Cain violated it. He’ll have to believe that will hold up in a court of law for him to advise the accuser to come forward. Because once she does, the National Restaurant Association could sue for the return of the settlement money.
The best practice here is for the National Restaurant Association to break the gag order, given the public importance. Cain can even ask them to do it, though he has been noncommital. I doubt that will happen, however. And the larger question of these confidentiality agreements, and the other ways that corporations and trade groups lord it over their employees, is worth a public debate.
I would also note that the National Restaurant Association is a lobbying group, and that Herman Cain was operating as their CEO. Or, if you prefer, as a corporate lobbyist.