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David Davidar, formerly of Penguin Canada, photographed in Penguin's Toronto offices in 2003. (John Morstad/The Globe and Mail)
David Davidar, formerly of Penguin Canada, photographed in Penguin's Toronto offices in 2003. (John Morstad/The Globe and Mail)

Publishing

Woman offers support to Davidar accuser Add to ...

A woman has come forward to "support" the woman accusing former Penguin Canada CEO David Davidar of sexual harassment.

A lawyer for Samantha Francis, Mr. Davidar's former executive assistant and, later, paperwork editor at the publishing giant, said her client is backing former colleague Lisa Rundle.

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Ms. Rundle is suing Mr. Davidar, alleging that he harassed her for three years when she worked at the company, including an alleged incident last fall in which he forced his tongue in her mouth. She is also suing Penguin, claiming the company ended her employment when she came forward with the harassment claims.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

"Ms. Francis has had the opportunity to review [Ms. Rundle's]Statement of Claim, in particular the references to incidents which occurred during her employment with Penguin Group (Canada). She confirms her strong support of Ms. Rundle," wrote Ms. Francis's lawyer, Bobbi Olsen, in a statement.

Ms. Francis has met with lawyers and was weighing her options, Ms. Olsen wrote. She declined to comment further and said Ms. Francis would also not comment.

Reached at home Tuesday night, Mr. Davidar declined to comment specifically on the allegations but reiterated that he would be defending himself against them.

"The allegations are trumped up," he said. "I really can't respond at the moment. Everything will be dealt with in my statement of defence."

Penguin representatives could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Ms. Rundle, a former director of digital publishing and foreign rights for Penguin Canada, filed suit June 9.

Her statement of claim alleges that, in the summer of 2008, Mr. Davidar told Ms. Rundle that Ms. Francis had filed a sexual harassment complaint with Penguin executives.

According to the claim, Mr. Davidar told Ms. Rundle that he had spoken with Ms. Francis - referred to only by S.F. in the statement of claim - in his office, asked her "what she was doing," telling her she had "no right" to complain and that he was simply "being friendly." After the conversation, he told Ms. Rundle that his accuser had rescinded her complaint, the claim alleges.

Ms. Francis left the company a few months later, the claims says.

Ms. Rundle further alleges similarities between Mr. Davidar's alleged harassment of the two women: both women's mothers were suffering from cancer at the time of his alleged advances, he sent them both e-mails and gifts and the company's HR department told them both that Mr. Davidar had indicated that they had misinterpreted his friendliness.

Ms. Rundle is asking for $423,000 from Penguin for wrongful dismissal and for $100,000 from Mr. Davidar himself. Penguin and Mr. Davidar have until the end of this month to file statements of defence.

A statement from the company said Mr. Davidar had been asked to leave. Mr. Davidar himself released a statement saying that he had been terminated by Penguin in the face of sexual harassment allegations.

He said he planned to fight the suit.

 

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