Just three months after she took the job, the inaugural chief executive of Time’s Up — an organization born of the #MeToo movement that advocates for safe and harassment-free workplaces — abruptly resigned after her own son was accused of sexual assault.
Lisa Borders notified Time’s Up leadership last week of the allegations against her 36-year-old son. Within 24 hours, she resigned as president and CEO, according to a statement from the advocacy group. In a joint statement with Time’s Up, posted to its Instagram account Monday, Borders said she was leaving.
But the impetus for her resignation — that her personal life had collided with her professional mission — was not initially disclosed. Rather, Borders said she had to “address family concerns” that required her “singular focus.”
Time’s Up, in its own statement, said it was the “right decision for Lisa as well as the organization.”
It wasn’t until Thursday, after the Los Angeles Times reported on the sexual assault allegations, that Time’s Up released a second statement explaining why Borders resigned.
“All of our actions were fully guided by our support for survivors,” the second statement said.
Borders made it clear to Time’s Up leadership that she planned to proactively defend her son, someone close to the situation who was not authorized to discuss it publicly, and so spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Washington Post. This created a difficult tension within the organization, whose mission revolves around believing survivors of sexual abuse.
Criminal defense lawyer Alan Jackson, a former prosecutor, has been hired to represent Borders’s son, who has described himself as a life coach.
His accuser, a Santa Monica woman who spoke to the Los Angeles Times about her experience, initially posted her account to Facebook. She told the newspaper that Borders’s son was sexually inappropriate with her during a healing session she solicited. The woman alleged that he touched her genitalia, kissed her neck and brushed his clothed, erect penis against her body during the session, which left her surprised and feeling “violated,” she told the newspaper.
Jackson disputed the woman’s version of events and shared with The Post text messages his client and the woman exchanged after the session. Initially, the woman thanked the 36-year-old and called the session “gentle and authentic and loving.”
“As the facts have unfolded, it is abundantly clear that no inappropriate or nonconsensual touching ever occurred,” Jackson said. “These allegations are patently false and my client looks forward to vigorously defending his name and reputation.”
In an interview with InStyle last month, Borders described her son as her version “2.0,” a “better version [of me] than I would ever be: more competent, confident and compassionate.”
Borders left her job as WNBA president in October to join Time’s Up as its first CEO. The organization was formed in January 2018 by a group of women in the entertainment industry and earned early recognition during last year’s film awards season. Hollywood actresses wore black and Time’s Up pins and invited advocates for sexual assault survivors to join them on the red carpet.
At the time of her hiring, Borders was praised by founder and Shondaland CEO Shonda Rhimes.
“With Lisa’s skills and leadership, Time’s Up is now in the best position to achieve what we all started — to create a more positive future for workplace culture and a more powerful network for working women of all kinds,” Rhimes said.
The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund had already helped employees at McDonald’s and Walmart file sexual harassment claims before Borders was hired, and during a gala in November to celebrate her appointment, Borders vowed to continue that work and use her WNBA experience to help women across a litany of industries.
“We as a nation deserve what we tolerate, we as a community deserve what we tolerate,” Borders said during a speech at the celebration. “So, the bad behavior, poor treatment or the maltreatment of women is something I personally do not wish to tolerate.”
In the year since it was established, the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, housed by the National Women’s Law Center Fund, has responded to more than 4,000 requests from women and men across the country who say they experienced sexual misconduct or harassment and want legal assistance. Two-thirds of those reaching out are low-wage workers, according to Time’s Up data.
The fund has also awarded $750,000 in grants to 18 nonprofit groups that work with low-wage workers who’ve experienced sexual harassment and workplace retaliation.
Most recently, the organization has launched efforts to increase the number of female film directors in Hollywood and double the number of women in leadership positions across other industries.