I Had Consensual Relationship With Lisa: Davidar

I Had Consensual Relationship With Lisa: Davidar
Breaking his silence, India-born David Davidar, the former CEO of Penguin International, today claimed that he had a "consensual, flirtatious relationship" with his ex-colleague Lisa Rundle, dismissing her accusation of sexual harassment.

52-year-old Davidar said the two had offices next to each other at Penguin in the latter part of 2005 and had become friends. 2 years later, their friendship had become "flirtatious", a statement issued by his lawyer Peter A Downard here said.

Davidar had last week said that the company had terminated his services in the wake of the sexual harassment suit slapped against him by Rundle, a former Rights and Contracts Director of Penguin Canada, who demanded 523,000 dollars in damages.

She filed the suit on June 10 in an Ontario Superior Court of Justice, alleging that Davidar, who was also President of Penguin Canada, sexually harassed her repeatedly over the past 3 years, culminating in outright assault at the 'Frankfurt Book Fair' last fall, and that she was fired after complaining to superiors about his "twisted treatment" of her.

Rundle of Toronto is claiming damages of 423,000 dollars from Penguin for "wrongful" dismissal and the "harsh, vindictive and malicious fashion" with which it allegedly treated her following her complaints against Davidar.

She is also seeking damages of 100,000 dollars against Davidar personally.

"David Davidar has not sexually harassed anyone. He has not assaulted anyone. David Davidar had a consensual, flirtatious relationship that grew out of a close friendship with a colleague. He deeply regrets the hurt this has caused his wife," Downard said in the statement.

He said at Rundle's invitation, Davidar had played tennis with her and in 2007, Davidar suggested to her that the relationship become "more romantic", but the woman said she had more than one suitor, he being one among them, and that it would be important to her that any such relationship is not kept a secret.

Accepting the situation, Davidar wrote to her personal e-mails, read poetry to her and the two exchanged gifts from time to time, the lawyer said.

In August 2008, Rundle invited Davidar to a tennis tournament and their personal, social friendship resumed after a gap of six months during which the two had agreed to keep their relationship "strictly professional."

Downard said Davidar and Rundle "kissed on two occasions".

"The first was in Rundle's room during the October 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair referred to in Rundle's claim. However, contrary to Rundle's claim, Davidar did not bully his way into her room nor did he force himself upon her," he said.

"Two days later, Davidar and Rundle went to dinner at a restaurant. After dinner, Davidar kissed Rundle again, this time in his hotel room," the statement said.

The lawyer said Rundle "subsequently told Davidar that she had enjoyed their kisses in Frankfurt, whether or not they were ever repeated. She did nothing to convey to Davidar that his attention was unwanted."

In January 2010, Rundle requested a pay increase to which Davidar told her that salaries at Penguin were frozen. "However, he offered her the role of Director Digital Publishing and Foreign Rights. This justified a pay increase of approximately 10,000 dollars," Downard said.

"Within weeks, Rundle told Davidar that she no longer wished to have her new digital publishing responsibilities. Davidar accepted this while reminding Rundle that if she gave up the additional role, the accompanying salary increase would not be continued," he said.

 The lawyer said throughout Rundle's employment with Penguin she had the opportunity to complain of any alleged sexual harassment by anyone. The company provided an anonymous employee 'help line'.

 "Despite these resources available to her, it was not until several months after the trip to Frankfurt that Rundle initiated a complaint of sexual harassment by Davidar. Davidar subsequently told Rundle that her complaint would have no effect on her employment," the statement said.

Last week Samantha Francis, Davidar's former executive assistant, corroborated Rundle's accusations.

According to the statement of claim, in which Francis is identified as SF, she complained to her superiors about alleged sexual harassment and a lodged a complaint against Davidar.

When Rundle spoke with Francis "regarding her experience" she "found striking similarities between their situations", local media reported.

Downard said "Davidar engaged in flirtatious banter with her for a short period of time. He did not engage in any conduct towards Francis that he knew or should have known was unwelcome."
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