Tiger Woods’ ex-girlfriend Erica Herman disputes NDA, raises sexual harassment claims
Tiger Woods’ ex-girlfriend Erica Herman disputed the legitimacy of a pivotal non-disclosure agreement and raised claims of sexual harassment relating to that NDA’s enforcement, in a court document filed on Friday.
Woods and Herman dated for more than five years and lived together in Woods’ home in Jupiter Island, Fla., until October 2022. In the months since, Herman has been seeking $30 million in damages as well as relief from an NDA. Woods has maintained that under the original agreement, any dispute between the two should be resolved via confidential arbitration, and said so in a recent motion. Herman’s response to that motion, filed in Martin County through her attorney, Benjamin Hodas, says the NDA cannot be authenticated and that even if it can, should not be enforced.
The introduction to the response begins as follows:
“Tiger Woods, the internationally renowned athlete and one of the most powerful figures in global sports, decided to pursue a sexual relationship with his employee, then — according to him — forced her to sign an NDA about it or else be fired from her job. And, when he became disgruntled with their sexual relationship, he tricked her into leaving her home, locked her out, took her cash, pets, and personal possessions, and tried to strong-arm her into signing a different NDA.
“Now, he wants to deny her access to the courts and put this case into secret arbitration, based on a highly redacted document that he claims is a contract between them.”
Here’s some context around the latest filing and how it relates to the case:
The filing lays out a timeline of the relationship between Herman, 38, and Woods, 47. According to the document, Woods hired Herman to work on the “development and launch” of his new restaurant, The Woods Jupiter. She remained on as Director of Operations after its opening. Here’s how the filing describes the beginning of their romantic relationship:
“Through 2015 and 2016, Mr. Woods and Ms. Herman developed a romantic relationship, and around the end of 2016, Ms. Herman moved in with Mr. Woods.”
Woods’ motion had asserted that Herman signed an NDA on August 9, 2017, which he described as “shortly after commencing the relationship.” That fall Herman entered the public eye, beginning with her appearance at the Presidents Cup at Liberty National. What amounted to “significant publicity” followed in the months and years ahead.
Over time, Herman asserts that Woods “placed increasing pressure” on her to stop working at The Woods in order to “devote herself full-time to their relationship and caring for him and his children.” She stopped working at The Woods in 2020.
The filing also lays out the end to the relationship, describing a scene in which Woods brought in his lawyer to “unceremoniously eject Ms. Herman from the house through trickery and break up with her for him.”
The alleged “scheme” is described as Woods instructing Herman to pack for a weekend trip to the Bahamas, something they often did. But when Woods drove her to the airport, there was no trip planned; instead he dropped her off and instructed her to talk to his lawyer, who was waiting with another NDA. Herman says she was pressured to sign the document, which she refused to do. She also alleges that she was locked out of the house and that her “personal property and pets” were taken.
Woods wants to resolve the dispute through private arbitration and believes he has the right to do so per the original 2017 NDA. That’s where this filing focuses; Hodas makes several arguments targeted at disputing the legitimacy of Herman’s original NDA, which Woods filed a redacted version of in March. Rob McNamara, Woods’ right-hand man, signed a declaration on May 1 asserting that Herman had shown him evidence she had signed it at the time.
Hodas contends there’s a lack of evidence of the NDA’s existence in its original form and that it falls short of the required threshold. As a result, he asks for the motion to be denied without an evidentiary hearing. The filing goes on to raise questions about the authenticity of the document and says given its significant redactions it “cannot be a true and correct copy.” He also points out that Woods didn’t submit a declaration form himself and dismisses McNamara’s declaration as an “eleventh-hour submission.”
Per the filing, Herman “does not recognize the form of the document in Exhibit ‘A’ [the NDA] and does not recall signing it.” It also makes the claim that the NDA and its claims to arbitration had never been used before to resolve disputes or to keep the relationship quiet.
Sexual harassment claims
Herman’s filing claims that Woods’ own version of what happened meets the threshold for sexual harassment in the workplace.
“On Mr. Woods’s own portrayal of events, he imposed an NDA on her as a condition to keep her job when she began having a sexual relationship with him. A boss imposing different work conditions on his employee because of their sexual relationship is sexual harassment.”
The filing cites the recently passed law, “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021,” as evidence the case shouldn’t be sent to arbitration, given the case “relates” to sexual harassment.
Woods’ previous motion was openly dismissive of Herman’s claims and motivations, calling her a “jilted ex-girlfriend who wants to publicly litigate specious claims in court.” But Hodas hit back against that language as a “peevish response” and wrote that it was “taken from the classic playbook of powerful men accused of sexual harassment who respond by belittling and insulting their victims.”
Hodas wrote that, separately, Herman’s ejection from the home also “relates” to sexual harassment. He claims that Herman had a tenancy agreement with the trust that owns Woods’ house and that that agreement was terminated at the end of their relationship.
“The landlord made the availability of her housing conditional on her having sexual relationship with a co-tenant,” it says. “That conduct amounts to sexual harassment under federal and Florida fair housing laws.”
Herman is not seeking monetary damages related to sexual harassment, just relief from the NDA.
Woods has not discussed the case nor the end of his relationship with Herman publicly. He is currently recovering from surgery and isn’t expected to play competitive golf in the next several months.