Earlier this week, on June 8, when news broke that David Davidar was resigning from Penguin Canada as its president, he announced that he simply wanted to return to India with his wife, Rachna, and focus on his writing career. Therefore, the press-release by Yvonne Hunter, Penguin vice-president of marketing and publicity, came as a shock to most:
Lisa Rundle, former Rights and Contracts Director of Penguin Canada, brought an action yesterday against David Davidar, the former President of Penguin Canada, alleging sexual harassment. Ms. Rundle also made a number of claims relating to Penguin Canada including wrongful termination.
Ms. Rundle was not terminated by Penguin Canada, but rather she advised the company of her decision to leave after having declined to pursue other career opportunities within the organization.
Mr. Davidar was asked to leave the company last month and his departure was announced on June 8. Mr. Davidar will play no further role in the company.
Penguin Canada expects to appoint a new head of the Canadian company in the near future.
Out of respect for the privacy of the individuals involved, the company will not provide further comment at this time.
David Davidar himself responded with the following message:
I was disappointed to learn today that Penguin Canada has made a public statement about litigation commenced against the company and myself.
Earlier this week it was announced that I would be leaving Penguin Canada. At Penguin’s request, I agreed to publicly state that my departure was voluntary. The truth is that a former colleague accused me of sexual harassment and Penguin terminated my employment.
I had a friendship with my colleague which lasted for three years. I am utterly shocked by the allegations. I am dismayed that Penguin Canada chose to respond to them by directing me to leave Penguin. I intend to defend the allegations vigorously in the courts, and I am certain that the truth will prevail.
As I said earlier this week, I intend to pursue my writing career. I do not intend to make further comment on the pending legal proceedings.
The Globe and Mall has more details of Ms Rundle's charges against Mr Davidar:
Ms. Rundle offers a sharply different account of the events in her statement of claim. “Terminating Lisa for bringing to the table her complaints about the sexual harassment and sexual assault she suffered at the hands of Davidar is particularly reprehensible conduct on the part of the company,” it said.
The accusations are accompanied by quotations from several e-mail messages Mr. Davidar allegedly sent to Ms. Rundle during the period in question. Last year, he is said to have written that he “could do very little except think of [Ms. Rundle],” that she was “utterly gorgeous,” “a vision in pink sipping a champagne cocktail,” and that she should not be “stubborn” or “fight” him.
“Davidar over time became more and more intense with his persistent protestations of lust and desire for Lisa,” according to the claim, “and in return she became increasingly disturbed and afraid.”
The harassment allegedly culminated in an outright assault at the Frankfurt Book Fair last October when, according to the claim, Mr. Davidar appeared at Ms. Rundle’s hotel room door, “wearing excessive cologne, with buttons on his shirt undone down his waist.”
“Lisa stood in her hotel room into which Davidar had bullied his way, with her arms crossed, still near the door, and asked what he needed to discuss,” it said. “He told her to relax and just let him come in. She refused and said she wanted to go to sleep.”
Ms. Rundle claims she climbed on a windowsill to avoid her boss and again asked him to leave. “He forcibly pulled her off the ledge and grabbed her by the wrists, forcing his tongue into her mouth,” it said
David Davidar, who launched the Indian imprint of Penguin for the Anand Bazaar Patrika (ABP) group, moved to Canada in 2003 as head of Penguin Canada and was recently promoted as the head of Penguin International, a new division overseeing Penguin’s activities in South Africa, India and the Middle East. He was seen by many as being groomed to succeed Mr. Makinson as chairman of the worldwide Penguin Group.
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