Kwantlen Polytechnic University says a fired former employee’s allegations of workplace harassment should be dealt with by WorkSafe BC, not the B.C. Supreme Court.
A written response to the court application by Sandra Kuzyk, the former executive assistant to the university president, was filed with the Vancouver court registry by the university’s lawyer on Friday, Aug. 16.
It argues that Kuzyk was a worker as defined by provincial law, which means any claim dealing with her treatment on the job has to be handled under the Workers Compensation Act of B.C. and the court has no jurisdiction.
Kuzyk is seeking compensation for what her written claim, filed on July 26, called “abusive and violent” behaviour by her superiors at the university.
The university response denies the allegations and says neither the persons named in the Kuzyk claim, or “any other employee of the university terrorized, threatened, abused, harassed, intimidated or otherwise treated the plaintiff improperly as alleged or at all.”
Kuzyk, 52, was fired from her $89,100-a-year job in March, after more than 16 years of employment.
Her lawsuit makes specific allegations against a number of people she says either committed the abuse or failed to stop it.
None of the allegations has been proven in court.
According to the university, Kuzyk only made one specific complaint while she was working: that interim university president John McKendry had raised his voice, slammed a door and thrown papers down on a desk.
When the chair and vice-chair of the university board of governors met with McKendry, he “emphatically denied engaging in any harassment or improper behaviour,” the university document states.
Other allegations, that university employees were fired because they made complaints against McKendry or promoted because they acted to protect him, were described as “frivolous, vexatious and entirely without foundation” by the university response, which added “at no time did the defendant [Kwantlen] engage in any conduct out of malice with the deliberate intention of harming the plaintiff.”
The Kuzyk claim is seeking unspecified financial compensation, including aggravated or “Wallace” damages.
The Wallace principle is based on a precedent-setting Canadian wrongful dismissal case that found employers who show bad faith, such as causing “humiliation, embarrassment and damage to an employee’s self-esteem” during termination must pay added compensation.
No date for a court hearing has been set.
Kwantlen operates four campuses serving 20,000 students in Langley, Surrey, Cloverdale and Richmond.