The BC Liberals want BC Conservative leader Trevor Bolin to address taking "prohibited discriminatory action" against a female employee who was fired after reporting sexual harassment at one of his businesses.
A July 2018 report from WorkSafe BC states: "The employer did not take the worker’s sexual harassment complaint seriously.”
According to the report, Bolin refused to reassign the offending employee to other shifts after the victim reported the matter in early 2018 to management, and then to the RCMP.
The female worker was fired three weeks later for what Bolin claimed to WorkSafe was for “disrespectful and uncooperative behavior.”
The findings and decision of WorkSafe investigator Abudi Awaysheh was as follows, at paragraphs 42 to 49:
“The employer does not dispute the worker’s claims that she was dismissed, or that she reported bullying and harassment at the workplace. It disputes that she was dismissed for reporting health and safety matters.
“It submits that she was dismissed because of her disrespectful and cooperative behaviour, and her performance, and that her dismissal was long overdue. The employer has not produced any evidence warning the worker that her behaviour and performance was a concern, and would lead to her dismissal. I infer that the employer has not provided the worker with any warning that she may be dismissed due to her behaviour or performance.
“The employer says that it should have terminated her immediately on January 23, 2018. The evidence however is, it first asked her to go home for the day, but then it changed its mind and allowed her to continue working. I infer that the employer did not intend on dismissing her on January 23, 2018.
“The employer says that on January 31, 2018, it asked her if she could change her behaviour, but it didn’t wait for a response from her as it arrived at the conclusion that “it became clear she would not... We told her that she was being released, and that she could collect her severance pay immediately.” The evidence is that at the January 31, 2018 meeting, the worker’s last pay cheque was already prepared. I infer that the January 31, 2018 meeting was for the purpose of dismissing the worker, rather than changing the worker’s behaviour.
"The employer has not demonstrated how it complied with its own bullying and harassment policy. There is no evidence of a written report with conclusion, of the employer advising the worker of the investigations’ findings, or advising the worker at any point in time that after she experienced a sexual harassment incident from her supervisor, Team Leader, to contact the employee assistance program or seek medical advice. I infer that the employer did not take the worker’s sexual harassment complaint seriously.
"The worker has provided evidence that the January 31, 2018 meeting was called because the RCMP attended the workplace on January 29, 2018, and has provided evidence that the involvement of the RCMP on this matter, was a reason for her dismissal. The employer has provided no comment on the RCMP’s involvement in this health and safety manner. As such, I find the worker’s evidence on this point is undisputed.
"The facts before me lead to the conclusion that the employer’s motivations for terminating the worker on January 31, 2018, has a causal connection to her reporting bullying and harassment on January 11, 2018. As noted above, the taint principle requires the employer to prove, on a balance of probabilities, that no part of its actions against the worker was motivated by the worker’s engagement in protected health and safety activities. Given the temporal connection between the worker reporting health and safety concerns seven days prior to her dismissal on January 31, 2018, the absence of contemporaneously prepared evidence from the employer documenting their concern with the worker’s performance or behaviour, the employer’s failure to follow their own bullying and harassment policy, and finally their decision on January 31, 2018 to dismiss her, I find that the employer has failed to prove, on a balance of probabilities, that the worker being dismissed, was in any way not related to his health and safety activities.
"I accept the worker’s complaint. I find the employer took prohibited discriminatory action under the Act in terminating the worker on January 31, 2018."
Bolin became leader of the BC Conservatives in 2019, after the incident and ruling, and has been sitting on Fort St. John city council since 2008.
Questions put to BC Conservative Party president Justin Greenwood concerning the party and BC Conservative candidates having previous knowledge of the decision, remain unanswered at this time.
Bolin, who owns businesses in Fort St John and Dawson Creek, said it was a learning lesson for both him and his team.
In a statement released by the BC Liberals on Saturday, the party said, "As the leader, Bolin needs to publicly address why he minimized the sexual harassment and then punished the female employee."
Read the WorkSafe BC report detailing the case:
Bolin released this statement on Saturday:
"On October 17th the BC Liberal Party shared a Workers Compensation Board (WCB) report from one of my stores, on an occurrence from 2018.
"It is unfortunate that with the political fortunes of the BC Liberals collapsing, that they have chosen to turn their focus on an event that was already hard enough for the families involved.
"A staff member accused another staff member of sexual harassment, and accused my store of wrongful dismissal with Workers Compensation.
"An investigation occurred in which WCB was provided with all policies at the store, and procedures as well as the actions taken to investigate the complaint.
"The staff member however, who was the victim, was later let go for her subsequent actions towards the General Manager. She claimed wrongful dismissal, saying she had been terminated due to the complaint. This was not true.
"The policies and procedures that are in place at that store, and indeed all stores that I own and operate, are as good, or exceed, WCB regulations. However, I will not allow mistreatment from one staff member to another.
"Regrettably, the former staff member was dismissed for yelling at the General Manager, after the internal investigation was finalized, which was being reflected in actions at the workplace and with other employees.
"At the end of the day the Workers Compensation Board found the sexual harassment complaint, against another staff member, was dealt with. A monetary fine was implemented, as was a reference letter which I completed inside the timeline set out, for the wrongful dismissal.
"Still, I have asked myself if I would do things differently today?
"Yes, because I have since realized that her lashing out was a sign for me to find out the root issues, and work with her to overcome them. I will continue to ensure the stores policies and worker safety is paramount.
"The policies in place at my stores, and my own nature, stand against harassment, bullying and racism. I pride myself on the atmosphere my businesses provide to my staff, many of whom have been with me for many years.
"As I said at the outset, the BC Liberals released a document from 2018, which in light of the current election campaign only sheds a negative light on them in their attempt to smear my campaign.
"I find this unfortunate, and regrettable."
BC Liberal Peace River North candidate Dan Davies released this statement Saturday:
"I had no part in this unfortunate situation becoming public. However, Trevor came forward, and I expect anyone in this situation to come forward as I believe, we do deserve answers. We would expect anyone in a position like his to do the right thing. Let me be clear, I do not condone violence against women at any level. We can all do better."
[Eds. Note: Adds Bolin statement; findings from WorkSafe; and statement from Dan Davies.]
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