Kenney's office denies 'poisoned work environment' in legal dispute with former legislature staffer
The premier's office in Alberta is denying a former employee was subjected to a "poisoned work environment," and is asking for her lawsuit to be dismissed, according to a statement of defence obtained by CTV News.
The document, filed in an Edmonton court on Monday by lawyer Vicki Giles, says plaintiff Ariella Kimmel was fired without cause because the minister she was assigned to no longer wanted to work with her.
It says Doug Schweitzer asked for Kimmel to be replaced as his chief of staff "on several occasions," because he wanted his former chief of staff back.
Schweitzer refused to elaborate on why when asked by CTV News Edmonton on Thursday, saying he couldn't comment because of the court proceedings.
The statement claims there was "no other role was available" for Kimmel, so she was terminated.
Kimmel has claimed she witnessed sexual harrasment, was subject to verbal abuse, and was fired for raising those concerns to officials in Jason Kenney's office.
The statement of defence does not name Kenney at all, and says Kimmel's lawsuit is technically against the Queen, as represented by the premier's chief of staff.
Kimmel said she witnessed excessive drinking in the legislature involving a former minister.
When she confronted Devin Dreeshen about that, she alleges he "angrily confronted" her about the situation and "aggressively yelled at her" until she was in tears.
"The plaintiff felt shaken and scared during this encounter," her lawsuit says.
Dreeshen resigned from cabinet in November, but remained a UCP MLA.
“I accept that my personal conduct with regards to alcohol has become an issue for the government as a whole,” Dreeshen wrote at the time.
In the defence statement, Giles argued that if the incident did happen, it wasn't work related.
"If the Alleged Incident did occur, it was a disagreement between the Plaintiff and Mr. Dreeshen, with whom the Plaintiff was admittedly involved in a personal relationship. Further, the Plaintiff was not acting within the scope of her employment at the time the Alleged Incident occurred," the document said.
In her lawsuit, Kimmel is seeking $199,233 (the balance she claims is owed to her for her term of employment), $100,000 in moral damages and $100,000 in punitive damages.
She is also seeking a declaration that she was wrongfully terminated along with costs of the legal action.
Giles argues Kimmel's employment contract allowed the premier's office to terminate her without cause, and she is only entitled to $29,541 because of that agreement.
The defence said Kimmel found another job and the premier's office did not cause her "mental distress, embarrassment or reputational harm."
Giles said the legislature has policies in place to protect employees, and respect in the workplace training was made mandatory.
"At all material times the Defendant maintained clear workplace policies and procedures regarding harassment and respect in the workplace," the statement said.
Kimmel also alleged that Ivan Bernardo, who was the principal secretary to then-Minister of Health Tyler Shandro, make a sexually inappropriate comment to one of her staff members
"If the Alleged Comment was made, the incident was resolved to the satisfaction of the individual to whom the comment was directed insofar as is known to the Defendant," the statement said.
Giles also alleges that Kimmel "engaged in inappropriate and disrespectful behaviour towards scheduling staff, the Director of Talent, and other members of the Premier's Office Staff and department officials," during her employment.
Kimmel's lawyer, Kathryn Marshall, said the government's response is an example of why some people are scared to make workplace misconduct claims.
"I'm very disappointed that the government has chosen to continue their pattern of retaliatory conduct towards my client by maligning her character," Marshall said.
"The assertions in the statement of defence about my client's character are completely false."
Marshall said the lawsuit will continue and she declined to comment on how her client is feeling about the government's response.
"I do look forward to cross-examining Premier Jason Kenney who is someone who has very key information about the matter in this court proceeding," Marshall said.
None of the allegations in the statement of claim have been tested in court. A court date for the lawsuit has not been set.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Chelan Skulski
Edmonton Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
The majority of Canadians either support or somewhat support a new health contribution or fine applied to those who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19, according to a new survey by Nanos Research.
Truck drivers protesting against the vaccine mandate at the border have raised more than $3.7 million from donors around the world but the fundraising platform GoFundMe has temporarily stopped organizers from using the money.
The official spokesman for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan won’t be apologizing for the Canadian soldiers killed in Kandahar, Zabihullah Mujahid told CTV National News London Bureau Chief Paul Workman in Kabul, Afghanistan. 'They shouldn’t have come,' he said, in an exclusive interview.
Groups representing Canada's paramedics are calling for improved mental health services as staff shortages and unprecedented call volumes fuelled by the pandemic and the overdose crisis take a toll on workers.
A Connecticut man has been arrested and lost his job after video surfaced of him yelling at employees of a smoothie shop Saturday, where he claimed his son received a drink with peanut butter, causing a severe allergic reaction sending him to the hospital.
As other countries begin to withdraw embassy and diplomatic staff from Ukraine over heightened concerns of a Russian invasion, Canada is suggesting any non-essential Canadians should leave.
HQ Fine Foods is recalling certain Quality fast foods brand and Hygaard Fine Foods Ltd. brand sandwiches because of a possible Listeria contamination.
A spokesperson for the Taliban is adamant that reports circulating about widespread hunger and human rights violations against women in Afghanistan are not true and that the Taliban government is working to correct its perceived shortcomings on the international stage.
Alberta reported more than 8,500 weekend COVID-19 cases on Monday evening.
A Calgary man who admitted to murdering his former girlfriend but denied killing her daughter has been found guilty of killing the young girl.
Alberta unveiled a 10-point plan Monday to deal with unprecedented stress on the provincial EMS system.
More Saskatoon Blades games will have to be rescheduled as COVID continues to impact the Western Hockey League (WHL).
An anti-vaccine mandate protest convoy rolled through Saskatoon on Monday.
Saskatoon's Ukrainian community is closely watching the conflict brewing along the country's border with Russia.
Officials consider patient transfers to rural areas as Sask. COVID-19 hospitalizations reach highest count since October
As of Monday, 262 people with COVID-19 were in hospital, which is the highest count since Oct. 27.
Sylvester Ukabam, a former Regina doctor charged with seven counts of sexual assault against former patients, took the stand on Monday morning to kick off the third week of the trial.
A convoy of trucks protesting the federal government’s cross-border travel vaccine mandate is expected to roll through Regina on Monday evening.
Nova Scotia reported five new deaths related to COVID-19 Monday.
New Brunswick’s education and early childhood development minister is hopeful students will return to in-person learning on Monday, Jan. 31 but public health will have the final say later this week.
Prince Edward Island announced two new deaths related to COVID-19 Monday, involving two people between the ages of 60 and 79.
An Ontario man who missed his oil change is now on the hook for a $19,000 engine replacement despite the vehicle being under warranty.
A video posted on social media by an Ontario police officer, who says she feels people are at war for their freedoms, is being looked into by a regional police force.
This week, as Ontario records its 1 millionth confirmed case of COVID-19, a senior researcher into the 2003 SARS outbreak says recommendations made to blunt the impact of a future pandemic were not followed.
Quebec will launch pop-up clinics and a phone line to reach unvaccinated citizens in an effort to increase first vaccinations in regions where rates are lowest.
Quebecers will have to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter big-box stores with a surface area of more than 1,500 square metres, except for grocery stores or pharmacies.
Frustrated with the lack of data around COVID-19 cases in Quebec schools, one English board has taken matters into its own hands. A citizen website is getting teachers to leak air-quality results; meanwhile, the province says schools are under control, but some parents have helped out.
The province began releasing school-by-school absentee rates amongst staff and students on Monday. But the absences also include non-COVID-19 related reasons.
Truckers from across Canada are heading to the nation’s capital to protest a mid-January mandate which requires drivers returning from the United States who are not fully vaccinated to quarantine.
NEW THIS MORNING
NEW THIS MORNING | Your blood could save this Arnprior 8-year-old boy's life
Easton Harris was recently diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a rare blood disorder.
Emergency crews responded to a house fire on Esther Avenue in Cambridge on Monday.
Experts find nearly half of Canadians are feeling frustrated, anxious and fatigued amid the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Region of Waterloo is reporting five new deaths related to COVID-19 in Monday's dashboard update.
Tim Hortons is releasing a limited edition doughnut Jan. 28-30 with all proceeds supporting Special Olympics Canada and its athletes.
Science North in Sudbury is getting $500,000 in federal funding to promote vaccinations. The project is called 'Give Vaccines a Shot!' and it’s targeted at audiences of all ages.
There's a new young mayor in the region and at 22, he is of Canada's youngest. Frederic Diebel has been appointed to the vacant seat after the township's last mayor resigned.
Wedding season is a few months away and some Winnipeg couples could be out of a caterer and their deposit. Caitlin Turcotte and Mark Ribeiro are one of those couples.
Tensions in eastern Europe remain high over the threat of a Russian invasion in Ukraine. The situation is hitting close to home for many members of the Ukrainian community in Manitoba, who are keeping a close eye on developments overseas.
A Florida man charged for his role in a human-smuggling scheme that turned deadly at the Canada-U. S. border will be allowed to go home to await trial.
British Columbia recorded another 24 deaths related to COVID-19 over the weekend, as the number of test-positive patients in hospital neared 1,000.
Now that B.C. health officials have dramatically limited who can be tested for COVID-19, wastewater surveillance has become the most important indicator of how many people are infected with the virus.
Police in Vancouver say they're investigating an alarming, unprovoked stabbing that sent one person to hospital with life-threatening injuries over the weekend.
Police are on the lookout for a 36-year-old man and his seven-year-old daughter who were reported missing to the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP on Sunday.
No deaths related to COVID-19 were reported in Island Health over the weekend, though 24 deaths were confirmed across the province over the past 72 hours.
The Colwood Medical Treatment Centre announced it will shut down its walk-in clinic on April 15.