One of the former National Restaurant Association employees who accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment wants to tell her side of the story publicly, and her lawyer is trying to waive a confidentiality agreement so that she can do so.
According to the Politico investigation that uncovered the allegations, two female employees were given five-figure settlements to leave their jobs at the National Restaurant Association, where Cain was CEO from 1996-1999, and not talk about the incidents. That gag agreement is the reason their names have not been published and the reason they have not spoken to the press.
But the lawyer for one of the women says that Cain, a front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, waived the confidentiality agreement when he discussed details of the cases: namely, when he described on PBS's NewsHour how he had used a hand gesture to compare an employee's height to his wife's height, and then when he commented on the size of the settlements.
If there were also non-disparagement clauses in one or both of the agreements, which has been hinted at but not confirmed, Cain may have violated those clauses by saying that one of the women was dismissed because her work was not up to par.
Herman Cain and others have already disclosed that there was a confidential settlement, lawyer Joel Bennett, who represented one of the two women when she negotiated her settlement, told NPR on Monday. 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 the particular incident Cain referenced -- the comment about a woman's height -- involved the other accuser, not his client. But he said that Cain's decision to start talking about details might invalidate both confidentiality agreements.
I think the National Restaurant Association ought to waive the confidentiality and non-disparagement provisions and let the two women, if they choose to do so, come forward and tell their stories so that it can get a complete public airing, he told CBS News.
Association: To-Date, No Contact
Sue Hensley, a spokeswoman for the National Restaurant Association, said that Bennett had not contacted her or any other NRA official about waiving the confidentiality and non-disparagement agreements.
We have seen media reports that attorney Joel Bennett is publicly making requests on behalf of a former National Restaurant Association employee, Hensley said in a statement. Mr. Bennett has not been in contact with the Association. If we are contacted by Mr. Bennett, we will respond as appropriate.
Cain said he did not waive the agreement by discussing specifics of the incidents because he never mentioned the accusers' names. He added that his lawyers were reading over the settlement agreements before deciding whether to support waiving the confidentiality clauses.
After initially saying he didn't recall any sexual harassment allegations or settlements, Cain changed course on Monday and said he did, in fact, recall one settlement for an estimated two or three months' pay. The New York Times reported that one woman received a full year's pay, $35,000, but it is not clear which of the two women that was.
Cain also said the accusations that led to the settlements were baseless.
It is not fair, Bennett said, for Cain to publicly portray the incidents in one light when his accusers are forbidden to tell their own sides.
He's basically saying, 'I never harassed anyone. These claims have no merit and we gave them a pittance,' Bennett said. I'm sure my client would have a comeback to that.