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Penguin CEO gives his side of sexual harrassment claims.

FORMER Penguin International CEO David Davidar has released his side of an ongoing sexual harassment case, with a statement outlining that he and a former Penguin Canada employee had "a consensual, flirtatious relationship." Lisa Rundle, 37, filed a statement of claim for sexual harassment against him on June 9, one day after Penguin fired Davidar because of the accusations.

A statement written and released by Davidar's lawyer, Peter Downard at the Fasken Martineau law firm in Toronto, said Davidar "has not sexually harassed anyone. He has not assaulted anyone." It added that Ms Rundle indicated to Davidar that she "liked the attention he was paying her."

Rundle has filed Canadian dollar CAN522,910 in damages against Davidar and her former employeer, for sexual harassment on Davidar's part and wrongful dismissal on Penguin's. According to Downard's statement, Davidar and Rundle had a close personal friendship that included tennis games, theatre, poetry, lunches and gifts--and that Rundle welcomed the flirtatious elements of their relationship. The statement said: "Mr Davidar wrote Ms. Rundle personal emails, read poetry to her, and they exchanged gifts from time to time. Throughout this friendship Mr. Davidar would ask Ms. Rundle if she liked the attention he was paying her, and she indicated she did."

In Rundle's statement of claim, she outlined a situation in Frankfurt during the international book fair in October 2009, where she said Davidar "bullied his way" into her hotel room and kissed her without permission, pulling her off a window ledge and "forcing his tongue far into her mouth."

But while Downard's statement accepts that Davidar and Rundle kissed at that time, Davidar said the kiss was consensual and was repeated two days later when they had dinner together. The statement said: "Ms Rundle and Mr. Davidar kissed on two occasions. The first was in Ms. Rundle's room at the October 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair referred to in Ms. Rundle's claim. However, contrary to Ms Rundle's claim, Mr. Davidar did not bully his way into her room, nor did he force himself upon her. Ms Rundle did not object when they kissed."

Rundle's claim includes CAN422,910 in damages against Penguin Canada for "bad faith termination of employment" and breach of contract when she was fired on May 13 after filing a complaint, which Downard's statement counters with the fact that Penguin maintains an anonymous helpline and the ongoing opportunity to file a complaint--which she never formally did until several months after the episode in Frankfurt.

The statement also denies any untoward behaviour between Davidar and Samantha Francis, another former employee who came out in support of Rundle's claim earlier this month. There was no mention in Downard's statement about the circumstances surrounding Rundle's termination, although it mentions how Davidar assured Rundle after her first unofficial complaint to Penguin that any complaint against him would not threaten her professional career.
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Author:Jackson, Emma
Publication:International News
Date:Jun 1, 2010
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