Former NDP staffer files wrongful dismissal suit against MP over toxic workplace

An NDP MP faces a wrongful dismissal suit filed by a former employee who says she faced a “toxic” and “humiliating” work environment rooted in sexism and was fired after formally complaining about the alleged bullying.

OTTAWA — An NDP MP faces a wrongful dismissal suit filed by a former employee who says she faced a “toxic” and “humiliating” work environment rooted in sexism and was fired after formally complaining about the alleged bullying.

Fabiola Ferro also alleges in her statement of claim, filed Friday in Ontario Superior Court, that the party offered her a new job on the condition that she agree not to sue MP Sylvain Chicoine and the NDP.

The lawsuit comes to light as political parties grapple with the issue of sexual harassment and the treatment of women on Parliament Hill.

On Wednesday, two Liberal MPs were suspended from caucus following allegations of serious personal misconduct by two female NDP MPs. Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti say they have done nothing wrong. Neither the nature of their alleged misconduct nor the names of the two women have been released.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said Chicoine would not face a reprimand because a management-union committee had already reviewed the matter.

The case involving Chicoine revolves around the office environment and Ferro’s accusation that the MP allowed a fellow male employee to bully her. Ferro is suing for more than $150,000 in damages and claiming Ontario Human Rights Code violations.

“(The co-worker) threatened her, violated her freedom of expression, criticized her work in an unfair manner, insulted her professional abilities, ignored her, assigned her overtime (without permission) and increasingly isolated her,” said the statement of claim.

“On several occasions, Fabiola tried to discuss the problem of harassment with Chicoine. He refused to take steps to fix the deplorable situation and instead reprimanded her.”

None of the allegations have been tested in court and neither Ferro, Chicoine, nor their lawyers were immediately available for comment.

Ferro eventually launched an unsuccessful complaint through a committee linked to the NDP’s collective agreement. She says Chicoine initially fired her after she initiated the grievance, but later put her on leave with pay.

The co-worker also launched a complaint accusing Ferro herself of harassment. Both complaints were dismissed last spring by the workplace committee. Ferro says she was fired for good in late October, with Chicoine arguing she had “abandoned her position.”

Ferro says the NDP subsequently offered her a data entry job with a 60-day probation period, on the condition she agree not to sue Chicoine and the party.

Mulcair, speaking to reporters in Saskatoon on Friday, emphasized that Ferro’s lawsuit was focused on her dealings with the co-worker and not with Chicoine.

“The union and the management have concluded that no action is required under this case,” Mulcair said.

“It was a question of mutual accusations by employees, it has nothing to do with an accusation of harassment against a sitting member of Parliament. It’s very important to get that right.”

Mulcair did not address Chicoine’s firing of Ferro.

The allegations of improper conduct on Parliament Hill, added to the allegations of sexual violence against ex-CBC host Jian Ghomeshi, have sparked a national conversation about what women face in and out of the workplace.

Ghomeshi faces accusations by nine women, three of whom have filed complaints with police. He has denied any wrongdoing and vowed to fight the allegations “directly.”

Justice Minister Peter MacKay said there’s the potential for something positive to emerge from the controversies.

“If there was anything positive to have come from these revelations, and there’s very little frankly given the seriousness of the allegations, but it would be that I think there’s a very mature discussion happening now in the country,” MacKay said.

“It has elevated the public consciousness of the importance of stamping out harassment and addressing it head on, bringing it somewhat out of the shadows and making necessary adjustments.”

MacKay said those changes could happen in the area of criminal law, justice reform or through changes to practices and protocols in individual workplaces.

The House of Commons will have to consider changes to its practices and protocols following the suspension of Andrews and Pacetti.

The closed-door Commons committee called the Board of Internal Economy is set to discuss the matter later this month. Currently, there is no complaint or resolution mechanism for cases of harassment or misconduct involving MPs.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Erika Fetterly, owner of EFP Studios, recently launched the Let Them Have A Voice campaign. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta photographer’s campaign aims to give youths a voice

An Innisfail photographer is giving a platform to young central Albertans so… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels hosted the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first game of the shortened 2020-21 season on Friday. The two teams faced off again in Medicine Hat Saturday (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Red Deer Rebels fall to Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday

Tigers 7 Rebels 2 The Red Deer Rebels have lost two straight… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

More than 120,000 Albertans have signed up to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the first two days of appointment bookings. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta Health Services apologizes after seniors struggle to book vaccine appointments

The CEO and president of Alberta Health Services is apologizing after seniors… Continue reading

Red Deer’s Kyle Moore, 26, will be a houseguest on Season 9 of Big Brother Canada. (Photo courtesy Big Brother Canada)
Red Deer man will be a houseguest on Big Brother Canada

A Red Deer man will be a houseguest on the upcoming season… Continue reading

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is condemning alleged vandalism at the… Continue reading

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Machin waits to appear at the Standing Committee on Finance on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. Executives who engage in so-called "vaccine tourism" show both an ethical disregard for those less fortunate and a surprising lack of business acumen, experts argue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine tourism is both unethical and bad for business, experts say

Executives who engage in so-called “vaccine tourism” show both an ethical disregard… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Jesse Puljujarvi (13) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Justin Holl (3) battle in front as goalie Jack Campbell (36) makes the save during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, February 27, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
No Matthews, no problem: Minus NHL goal leader, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 4-0

Leafs 4 Oilers 0 EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs knew even with… Continue reading

The Pornhub website is shown on a computer screen in Toronto on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Pornhub policies reveal legal gaps and lack of enforcement around exploitive videos

OTTAWA — Serena Fleites was in seventh grade when a sexually explicit… Continue reading

Sean Hoskin stands on a neighbourhood street in Halifax on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Hoskin was diagnosed with COVID-19 almost a year ago with symptoms that still persist. Some provinces have established programs to deal with long-term sufferers but Atlantic Canada, with relatively low numbers of patients, has yet to provide a resource to assist them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
On East Coast, exhausted COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ hope specialized clinics will emerge

HALIFAX — On evenings when Sean Hoskin collapses into bed, heart pounding… Continue reading

Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) stands in his crease as Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane (88), left to right, defenceman Rasmus Andersson (4), Matthew Tkachuk (19), Mikael Backlund (11) and Mark Giordano (5) celebrate a goal during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Calgary Flames beat Ottawa 6-3 to end Senators’ three-game win streak

Flames 6 Senators 3 OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough to cover the average pinky nail but is made up of more than 280 components and requires at least three manufacturing plants to produce. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
From science to syringe: COVID-19 vaccines are miracles of science and supply chains

OTTAWA — A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough… Continue reading

Most Read