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It's All Politics
Lawyer: Cain May Have Violated Confidentiality Of Harassment Settlement
Originally published on Tue November 1, 2011 5:11 pm
The lawyer for a woman who settled a sexual harassment complaint against Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain in the late 1990s says that Cain may have violated the confidentiality terms of the agreement by commenting on its specifics over the past 24 hours.
"Herman Cain and others have already disclosed that there was a confidential settlement," says Joel P. Bennett, a Washington-based attorney specializing in employment law, who also represented the woman when she negotiated her settlement.
Two women, including Bennett's client, settled sexual harassment complaints against Cain when they worked for him during his late-1990s tenure as head of the National Restaurant Association.
The revelations were first contained in a story in Politico; Bennett declined to confirm the identity of his client.
"I don't know if she'll ever go public," he said Tuesday.
Cain may have waived the confidentiality requirements by talking publicly about the settlement, including disclosing details of the agreement, Bennett told NPR. That could potentially free up his client, as well as a second woman who settled a similar complaint, to speak publicly.
Bennett also called on the National Restaurant Association to release his client from her confidentiality agreement, the Washington Post reported.
Sue Hensley, a spokeswoman for the association, said she had seen the news reports.
"If we are contacted by Mr. Bennett, we will respond as appropriate," she said in a statement.
Cain, in television interviews Monday and during a speaking engagement, first denied knowledge of any settlements. Later in the day, he acknowledged the existence of the agreements, suggested one may have included two or three months pay, and also disparaged the work performance of one of the claimants as "not up to par."
The second woman is not being represented by Bennett.
Bennett says his client's settlement also contains a non-disparagement clause.
Bennett declined to comment more specifically on the settlement terms because he no longer has a copy of the 12-year-old agreement, and is relying on details provided to him by his client. He expects to receive a copy of the agreement from her Tuesday or Wednesday.
Without having the agreement in hand, Bennett says he doesn't know what it specifically says about Cain's obligations under the non-disparagement and confidentiality clauses.
"I haven't seen the agreement" in a dozen years, he said. "I haven't seen whether it goes both ways."
But even if it doesn't, Bennett says, "If an employer makes a confidential agreement, and then discloses it, there's a reasonable assumption that the employer has waived the confidentiality part of the agreement."
Bennett said his client, a graduate of an Ivy League university, worked in professional positions in government for many years before her tenure at the restaurant lobbying group, and does so currently.
It is "inconceivable," Bennett told NPR, that his client was motivated by money, or by a romantic interest in Cain.
"I've known her for a long time, and she's happily married," Bennett said, adding: "I can tell you also that I don't represent people who are trying to shake down employers."
Neither the Cain campaign, nor the National Restaurant Association has responded to requests for information on specifics of the settlements made with the women.