Coventry Homes 'severs' ties with co-owner facing sexual assault charge; 5 women sue company
Warning: This story contains allegations of sexual assault and sexual harrassment.
Five women are suing homebuilder Coventry Homes, after a now-former official at the company was charged with sexual assault.
The damages being sought total $6.2 million.
All five women used to work for Coventry; now they claim one of the company’s shareholders and former sales director, Robin Nasserdeen, ended up affecting their well-being and employment.
The civil claims all relate to what they say happened at the company in the months after Nasserdeen was charged with sexually assaulting a co-worker.
Jessica McNabb says Nasserdeen raped her after she went to a business dinner with him in 2021.
"The day it happened and the moment, this is the moment, do I wash my clothes? You hear about the Me Too Movement but it doesn’t mean anything to you in that moment," she told CTV News Edmonton.
The criminal trial begins next year, but McNabb has launched a civil suit against Coventry Homes claiming a close-knit ownership group allowed him to return to the workplace in the months that followed, causing her mental health to deteriorate.
"That’s when I was extremely depressed, shamed. But that shame does not lie with me. I speak out today to speak for other survivors, for everybody else who decided to say something," McNabb said.
Not all of the women now included in the $6.2-million civil suit knew each other during their time at Coventry, but McNabb and Caitlin Garrioch had a friendship at work.
"I was quiet for years and years and years. And then I was told by my friend that she was raped by the very same man that sexually harassed me for years and coerced me into having sex with him by threat of termination," Garrioch said.
Robin Nasserdeen, co-owner of Coventry Homes, has been charged with sexual assault and named in five civil claims from former employees. (Source: Facebook)
Her claim states Coventry Homes knew about Nasserdeen’s alleged conduct with her, and that management failed to provide a safe and healthy work environment for her.
"They had plenty of opportunity to do the right thing," Garrioch said.
Kaitlyn Ross was a sales manager at Coventry Homes and says she voiced concerns about Nasserdeen continuing to be in the office after he was arrested and charged.
"Fortunately, they did remove him, at that time, for about five months," she said.
"[But] when I went on vacation in September, they brought him back. And shortly after that, I was terminated."
Ross' civil filing says she was told she was let go for insubordination. Her claim is that it was a reprisal for bringing forward her concerns.
Anne Guenther's claim is that she was wrongfully terminated after raising her concerns.
"I don’t think that I should have had to leave the workforce, the place that I worked, because I was scared of someone. I expected something to be done," Guenther said.
Tessa Thomson claims that last year, she was reprimanded at a group meeting by a senior company manager for raising how Nasserdeen's return impacted her and others.
A day later, she was suspended without pay. Her claim states that a doctor then found her unfit to work for one month, leading to harassment from Coventry Homes.
"They were trying to challenge my medical leave. And after speaking with my lawyer, that was enough for constructive dismissal. So here I am," Thomson said.
The office of Coventry Homes in west Edmonton. (CTV News Edmonton)
Last week, Coventry Homes responded to the civil claims put forward by the former employees.
“Allegations against Robin Nasserdeen have made it unworkable for Mr. Nasserdeen to continue to be with Coventry Homes. While legal proceedings are underway, he will be stepping away from the company," said part of a statement from president and CEO Henri Rodier.
Thursday afternoon, a new statement from Rodier said the company has "taken action to sever our relationship with Mr. Nasserdeen."
"We take these allegations very seriously and are working closely with our staff to ensure that they continue to feel safe and free to express any concerns they may have," Rodier wrote.
Coventry Homes has relationships in the community as well, including a partnership with the Edmonton Oilers.
"We are closely monitoring the situation to determine our next steps as an organization," said a statement from Tim Shipton, executive vice president of OEG Sports & Entertainment.
Coventry was voted 2022 home builder of the year by the Edmonton chapter of the Canadian Home Builders Association.
"We are aware of the allegations made against Coventry Homes and a member of their executive team and take this situation very seriously," CEO Laura Bruno wrote in a statement.
"We are currently forming an ethics committee who will monitor the situation and investigate the matter. The results will inform our next steps.”
Nasserdeen, the man facing criminal charges, and named as one of the owners of Coventry Homes in the civil suit, issued a statement through his lawyer.
"What I can tell you at this time is that I am innocent - I completely deny ever sexually assaulting or harassing anyone, and I look forward to telling my side of the story and vindicating myself at the appropriate time before the public in a court of law," Nasserdeen wrote.
Nasserdeen’s sexual assault trial is set to begin in February.
The allegations in the statements of claim have not been tested or proven in a court of law.
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