By Lisa Lerer – Nov 7, 2011 3:08 PM ET
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain denied a former employee’s allegation that he groped her after she sought his help in finding a job in 1997.
Sharon Bialek, a single mother from Chicago, is the latest woman to accuse Cain of inappropriate sexual behavior while he was head of the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s.
Bialek, speaking at a news conference in New York, said Cain groped her after the restaurant association’s educational foundation had let her go and she sought his aid in finding a new job.
Cain, she told reporters, reached under the skirt of her suit for her genitals and pushed her head toward his crotch, after a dinner meeting to discuss her job search.
“You want a job, right?” Bialek said Cain told her when she questioned his behavior.
Cain, 65, has been dealing for the last week with fallout from sexual harassment allegations made against him in the 1990s when he headed the lobbying group. Bialek is the fourth woman to accuse the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO of sexually inappropriate behavior and the first to identify herself publicly.
“Come clean,” she urged Cain today, asking him to confess to any inappropriate conduct. “Admit what you did.”
As Bialek addressed reporters, the Cain campaign issued a denial dismissing the allegations as “completely false.”
“Mr. Cain has never harassed anyone,” said the statement.
Two other women who had worked at the restaurant association filed formal sexual harassment complaints against Cain and were paid settlements for their claims. Both women signed confidentiality agreements prohibiting them from discussing the details of the incidents.
Joel Bennett, a lawyer representing one of the women, said in a Nov. 5 statement to reporters that she complained about a “series of inappropriate behaviors” and “unwanted advances.”
A third woman told the Associated Press on Nov. 3 that she considered filing a complaint against Cain for what she considered aggressive behavior, including inviting her to his corporate apartment.
Bialek, identified as a Republican by her lawyer, Gloria Allred, said she first met Cain when she attended a company convention in 1997. After she was let go about a month later, she sought Cain out for help finding a new position. She said the two met for dinner in 1997 and that Cain offered to drive her to the group’s offices for a tour of the national headquarters.
‘Hand on My Leg’
“Instead of going into the offices, he suddenly reached over and he put his hand on my leg, under my skirt and reached for my genitals,” she said.
“He also grabbed my head and brought it towards his crotch,” she said, voice shaking.
Bialek said she asked Cain to stop, which he did. She said she didn’t file a sexual harassment complaint because she was no longer employed by the association.
“I’m coming forward to give a face and voice to those women who cannot or for whatever reason do not wish to come forward,” she said.