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Recording Academy General Counsel Joel Katz Denies Deborah Dugan’s Sexual Harassment Claims

Ousted Recording Academy chief Deborah Dugan claims that Katz, the Academy's outside general counsel, attempted to kiss her at a dinner meeting in May 2019.

Recording Academy outside general counsel Joel Katz is categorically denying allegations from ousted Recording Academy chief Deborah Dugan that he sexually harassed her. 

Dugan included the allegations in a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that she filed on Tuesday (Jan. 21), writing that the incidient occurred during a one-on-one dinner meeting at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel, Calif. in May 2019, before she was appointed to the Academy. 

At the dinner, Dugan wrote that Katz called her “baby,” complimented her appearance several times, and suggested the two of them “spend time together” before attempting to kiss her, among other things. “Ms. Dugan quickly turned away, repulsed,” the complaint states. 


Dugan had initially brought up these allegations in an email to the Academy’s managing director, Shonda Grant, on Dec. 22, in which she also detailed conflicts of interest, voting irregularities and a “boys’ club” mentality at the Academy.

Katz’s lawyer, Howard Weitzman, issued a statement late yesterday in response, writing that Dugan’s description of the dinner was “false.”

“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,” the statement begins. 
“This dinner meeting was 2½ months before Ms. Dugan started her job. 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.
“Ms. Dugan’s claims are made, for the first time, 7 months after this dinner took place. 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.”

Katz is also a former member and chair (1995-97) of the Academy’s board of trustees.


Dugan was placed on administrative leave from her role as Recording Academy president and CEO on Jan. 16, amid allegations of workplace bullying — igniting a firestorm within the Academy and sending shock waves throughout the music industry. 

The Academy has launched independent investigations to review Dugan’s potential misconduct, after a female employee alleged that Dugan created a “toxic and intolerable” work environment, and the allegations in her complaint. Dugan has argued that she was only put on leave after she raised her complaints of sexual harassment and improprieties, and indicated her intent to bring legal action, and that the Academy has launched a campaign to defame her.