HR Expert: Matt Lauer 'Power Differential' Altered Consent at 'Today'

Matt Lauer’s “power differential” between himself and colleagues altered consent so much that he was the only one who could benefit from a relationship, a human resources expert claims.

The Purposeful Culture Group’s Chris Edmonds spoke exclusively to PEOPLE to discuss Lauer and the accusations he faces, including his claims that he believed some of the interactions he had with women to be consensual.

“The power differential between him and literally every other Today show employee is huge. Any relationship he has with an NBC employee will be heavily influenced — a better term might be ‘tainted’ — by that differential,” Edmonds said. “The only person who benefits from a workplace affair like this is the person in power.”

Edmonds went on to explain that “workplace affairs are always a liability, especially so when they occur between a person of power and a subordinate,” adding that victims oftentimes refrain from reporting sexual misconduct due to “fear of job loss, career impact, and more. The victim — the woman in nearly all cases — suffers 99 percent of the consequences.”

On Thursday, former Today production assistant Addie Collins, who now goes by her married last name Zinone, came forward to detail her alleged month-long affair with Lauer in 2000, when she was just 24-years-old. She claimed that she struck a relationship with Lauer, who had just recently married, just prior to leaving Today for an anchor position with a local news station. Their relationship was kept a secret, secluded to a studio room.

“Even though my situation with Matt was consensual, I ultimately felt like a victim because of the power dynamic. He knew that I was leaving, and that there was no better prey than somebody who is going to be gone. He went after the most vulnerable and the least powerful — and those were the production assistants and the interns,” Zinone told Variety. “He felt like he was untouchable. He lacked so much morality and reality, because he had people enabling him. I see the common threads and how he preyed on women, and I was one of them.”