Women from Lethbridge Pronghorns university hockey team file lawsuit
LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — Four players from the University of Lethbridge women’s hockey team are suing the school, its sports director and the team’s coach.
A statement of claim filed on Tuesday in Court of Queen’s Bench names Olivia Alexander, Alannah Jensen, Chelsea Kasprick and Brittney Sawyer as plaintiffs.
The women claim in court documents obtained by Lethbridge News Now that they were harassed and intimidated while playing for the Pronghorns.
They allege coach Michelle Janus made abusive remarks to players and allowed bullying on the team.
The women also allege the university and sports executive director Ken McInnes did not do enough — namely firing Janus as head coach — when multiple concerns were raised as early as 2015.
None of the allegations has been proven in court and the university has said it will not provide any comments specific to the lawsuit.
The statement of claim says the players were “subjected to the harassing and demeaning conduct, representations, omission and/or negligence of McInnes and Janus.”
“The defendants harassed and bullied the plaintiffs by engaging in threatening and intimidating behaviours, not providing them proper care, calling them names and suggesting they were mentally unstable on a daily basis,” the document says.
The players also allege the university breached its contracts with the players by failing to maintain an environment free from discrimination, bullying and harassment.
A list of damages alleged by the players include physical, psychological and emotional harm, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, headaches, insomnia and loss of interest in playing sports, specifically hockey.
A list of 21 complaints were submitted to the university in May by six players, including the four who have filed the lawsuit. They outlined concerns with Janus under the university’s harassment and discrimination policy and asked for her termination.
That resulted in the university launching an investigation. It concluded with a response from acting chief human resources officer Nancy Walker on July 31.
“The conclusion relating to the harassment complaint was that the policy on harassment has been violated,” wrote Walker.
“The investigation conclusion in regards to discrimination was that based on the balance of probabilities and findings of fact, the policy on discrimination of different treatment on the basis of protected grounds has not been violated.”
She went on to outline steps that would be taken to address the situation, including improved communication, counselling and more in-depth training for Janus.
In response to the lawsuit, the university said it has already begun implementing many of the suggestions in the investigation’s report.
“The women’s hockey coach has committed to the actions recommended in the report to ensure the continued growth and development of the women’s hockey program and to provide a positive experience for student athletes both in and out of the classroom,” the university said. (Lethbridge News Now)
The Canadian Press