Recording Academy General Counsel Joel Katz Denies Fired CEO’s Sexual Harassment Claim

Recently ousted Recording Academy president and CEO Deborah Dugan’s explosive EEOC complaint includes allegations that she was sexually harassed last year by Joel Katz, the Academy’s general counsel. Katz today issued a statement through his attorney “categorically” denying her claim.

Dugan alleges that Katz harassed her while they were attending the first of a three-day meeting of the Academy’s board in May.

“Ms. Dugan’s allegations of harassment and her description of a dinner at the steakhouse in the Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel are false, and Mr. Katz categorically and emphatically denies her version of that evening,” attorney Howard Weitzman said.

“This dinner meeting was 2½ months before Ms. Dugan started her job,” he added. “Mr. Katz believed they had a productive and professional meeting in a restaurant where a number of members of the Board of Trustees of the Academy, and others, were dining.

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“Ms. Dugan’s claims are made, for the first time, seven months after this dinner took place,” Weitzman continued. “Mr. Katz will cooperate in any and all investigations or lawsuits by telling the absolute and whole truth. Hopefully Ms. Dugan will do the same.”

In her complaint (read it here), Dugan alleges that she had been contracted by Katz prior to the meeting and that he had requested that they have “dinner with him alone” the night of May 18. “Ms. Dugan was perplexed by this request, as she believed that if she was going to go to dinner with anyone, it should be to meet the Board’s Chair or Executive Committee,” her complaint states. “Despite her reservations, she agreed to join Mr. Katz for dinner as so not to upset the applecart before she even began her work at the Academy.”

“Throughout their May 18, 2019 dinner – Mr. Katz chose a very expensive restaurant and ordered an outrageously expensive bottle of wine – Mr. Katz acted extremely inappropriately. To begin, Mr. Katz repeatedly referred to Ms. Dugan as ‘baby,’ rather than by her name. Mr. Katz also repeatedly commented on Ms. Dugan’s physical appearance, telling her multiple times that she was ‘very pretty.’”

The claim adds: “Ms. Dugan made it clear that she was not interested in Mr. Katz’s advances and told Mr. Katz that she was in a committed relationship. Nevertheless, when dinner ended, Mr. Katz leaned in and attempted to kiss Ms. Dugan. Ms. Dugan quickly turned away, repulsed.”

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