In a court filing on Friday, Erica Herman claimed Tiger Woods sexually harassed her by pressuring her to sign an NDA while they were involved in both a personal and professional relationship. If accepted, her sexual harassment claim would not be preempted by the NDA.
The allegation is the latest development in Woods’ legal battle with Herman, who has filed two lawsuits against Woods in Martin County (Fla.) circuit court. In one lawsuit she seeks a judicial declaration that an NDA she and Woods signed in 2017 is invalid and unenforceable; in the other she’s suing a trust controlled by Woods that owns the $45.8 million mansion in Hobe Sound, Fla., where they resided. Herman claims at least $30 million in damages, because she calculates that would be the value of continuing to live in the mansions, which she alleges she was promised.
The NDA is a major legal obstacle for Herman, who dated Woods from 2017 (she says their relationship began “years” earlier) to last fall and who Woods employed in a supervisory role at Woods’ restaurant, The Woods Jupiter. The NDA expansively requires that “any and all disputes, claims or controversies … of any kind or nature whatsoever” must be resolved by “confidential binding arbitration.”
If, as Woods contends, the NDA is enforceable, it would compel the presiding judge, Elizabeth Metzger, to dismiss Herman’s claims and send them to arbitration. Unlike litigation, arbitration is conducted in private, and the parties are bound to confidentiality.
But through her attorney, Ben Hodas, Herman argues the NDA isn’t enforceable and doesn’t apply to her claims.
Last year, President Biden signed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act into law. It permits a person who asserts sexual assault or sexual harassment claims to sue even if an NDA says otherwise.
Until Friday, Herman had not—at least not explicitly—alleged sexual assault or sexual harassment. She now contends that “a boss imposing different work conditions on his employee because of their sexual relationship is sexual harassment.”
Further, Woods describing Herman as a “jilted ex-girlfriend who wants to publicly litigate” in a recent brief reflects—Herman argues—“a peevish response” that was “taken from the classic playbook of powerful men accused of sexual harassment who respond by belittling and insulting their victims.”
Friday’s court filing also stresses the NDA contemplates Herman’s “opportunity to spend time” with Woods and her employment at the restaurant. “The conjunctive word ‘and’ was used,” the brief notes, “not ‘or’ or ‘and/or.’” Herman says Woods “placed increasing pressure” on her to drop the job and “devote herself full-time to their relationship and caring for him and his children.” In 2020, she “succumbed to that pressure” and stopped working.
Herman further underscores that despite multiple disputes between her and Woods in their relationship, neither of them pursued arbitration to resolve them. To that point, she claims that Woods acted as if the NDA wasn’t in effect during a dramatic incident last October. Woods allegedly used “trickery” to dupe Herman into believing they were leaving for a romantic weekend getaway to the Bahamas. After driving Herman to the airport, Woods broke up with her while a private plane was waiting.
As Herman tells it, Woods’ attorney then appeared and told her she would never see Woods again, was forbidden from going back to their house and was barred from retrieving her belongings—even her pets.
Woods’ attorney also (allegedly) told Herman she needed to sign an NDA and non-disparagement agreement. If she was already bound by an NDA, Herman suggests, it would have been unnecessary for her to sign another one.
As of this writing, neither Woods nor his representatives have commented on the latest court filing. Expect his attorneys to continue to deny Herman’s narrative and insist that none of the alleged events she recounts qualifies as a “sexual harassment” under established law and precedent.
Woods will likely contend that both he and Herman wanted to sign an NDA to clarify their personal and employment relationship, and both freely and willingly signed that document.
Although sexual harassment can occur in myriad ways, it normally refers to unwanted sexual advances or verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Woods will maintain that he is not accused of that type of behavior and did not engage in it.