It’s been a year and 5 months in the making, and it’s still not over yet. But today, I finally finished my hearing for my Human Rights action against Theatre 20. While I may have to wait up to 3 months for a decision, I’ve decided, to hell with it, whether I win or lose, I want to get my side of the story out there now. It’s been exhausting and so why wait?
Before I get started, I’d like to point a few things out – namely, because people in the hearing liked to talk as though they were victims, and I had done some horrible injustice to them by insisting they respect my rights. So for them, or anyone who may think like them who wants to try and say I’m doing something wrong here, I’d like to point out;
“Like the courts, the hearings and decisions of the HRTO are public” – HRTO FAQ’s
In fact, at one point I was startled to have a stranger walk in and sit down at the back to watch; he has his own hearing coming up, and wanted to get a feel for it. So yes, I am allowed to say all of this, and yes, everything I am saying is true and based off of sworn statements and/or written evidence. Which means, when two of the Respondents decided to throw out there during testimony that they felt I had “defamed them”, they were wrong. Mainly, because the remarks were true, but also because my following the legal procedures to file a complaint of sexual harassment and discrimination is NOT derogatory, but rather my right as a Canadian, and a human being. So here’s a definition, for reference;
Canadian Defamation Law. … The more modern definition (of defamation) is words tending to lower the plaintiff in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally. The common law protects every person from harm to their reputation by false and derogatory remarks about their person, known as defamation. – CanLaw Inc.
Since this is a long and relatively complicated thing to explain, I think I’ll break it up into a few posts. I’ll start with the most important one, the thing that after the Hearing, after hearing witness testimonies, I am the most upset about;
I met Brian not long after he took on the position of Executive Director at Theatre 20. It was a job I had applied to as well, and so when I heard he got it I reached out with congratulations, hoping he would keep me in mind if another position opened up. Turns out that several Board Members who were at my interview quite liked me, and encouraged Brian to reach out once he got settled in. So in early 2015, we met up and discussed how I could be involved in the company.
I started off part-time, 20 hours a week, as Brian was still trying to sort out some issues with the management crossover. But by April, I was a full-time employee, and it wasn’t long until he gave me the title of Producer. As any theatre producer knows, the job is varied, and I did everything from web design, research, newsletters, venue coordination, social media, fundraising – anything that needed doing. As he was still settling into his role, I wasn’t given a ton of long-term tasks, but I was constantly assured I would have a contract “this week” and on more than one occasion he referenced the fact that he expected us to both be there for at least 5 years; I considered this a career, moved out of my house in Brampton so I could better manage the commute to work (anxiety & agoraphobia do not mix with long commutes), and that eventually lead to the end of my engagement. While he claimed in the Response that I didn’t care enough about Theatre 20, the fact is I changed everything else in my life to accommodate it. I considered myself in for the long haul.
I won’t go into the details of the issues I had with the day-to-day work with Brian, because frankly, I considered them not much more than an annoyance at the time. He was very slow to approve things, yet I wasn’t allowed to do anything on my own. While this and other issues were frustrating, I had no idea at the time that I was being blamed for anything not being done, and I trusted that he was doing his best, being honest, and that, when it came to the complaints I made, was “on my side”. I have since learned I was very wrong.
I’ll go into the specific complaints in another blog, because otherwise this will be far too long. For now, all you need to know is that I made complaints about 2 main issues;
- Sexual Harassment: Board Member Chris Weber had been overly flirtatious, and in a text message told me that I was “hot” and that he wanted to see me in a “shorter dress” – I told Brian about this and my fear that, if I rejected or complained to Weber about these things, there would be a reprisal. I didn’t want things to escalate in any way – no more flirting, but also no angry board member to deal with. I told Brian I didn’t want to later be accused of “not saying anything” (something you hear about women in harassment cases ALL the time) at the time. We didn’t have any particular policies in place, but after the conversation I felt confident that the issue would be resolved, or, at the very least, that it wouldn’t come back to bite me later. Again, I thought he was on my side.
- Discrimination & Harassment: On many, MANY occasions (we’re talking at least a dozen) I expressed to Brian that I felt the behaviour of certain Board Members – primarily Chris Skillen – during meetings was inappropriate. There was yelling and insulting remarks (mostly towards Brian) and I felt particularly uncomfortable with the way I was spoken about (rather than to), and some comments they had made about using Conservatory members (a youth mentorship program) as “promo girls”, as well as insisting on hugs and other comments made (again, details in another post), had pushed to me request, and eventually insist, that Brian speak to them about their behaviour. I offered from the start to do it myself, but he wanted to be the one to deal with them, so I let it be. But every time a new issue (or, the same issue) would rise again, I’d say “I need you to talk to them about this”. Eventually, I hit a point where I said, “if you don’t talk to them and stop this, I will. And if that doesn’t work I’ll have to make a formal complaint” (again, whether Employment Standards or HRTO, I knew this was inappropriate for the workplace).
Much of this came to a head in July of 2015, when I received what I found to be an especially rude and unprofessional email from Chris Weber. To top it off, he had cc’d a number of people who did not need to be involved in the conversation, something I felt he’d done purposefully in an attempt to embarrass me. I had had enough. I told Brian to say something, found I wasn’t getting a response, and so replied myself – only to Chris and Brian – with the following;
Apparently, this, along with the text I sent at the same time to Brian, saying that I would file a formal complaint if this email didn’t solve things, was “when the penny dropped” for Brian, and he decided I needed to be terminated (this is from sworn testimony given by Dave Morris, Chair of the Board). Dave added, while giving his testimony, that he believed my saying that I would speak to Board Members directly was legitimate cause for termination; it would be breaking the chain of command.
Let’s see what the code says about this;
“Section 8 of the Code protects people from reprisal or threats of reprisal. A reprisal is an action, or threat, that is intended as retaliation for claiming or enforcing a right under the Code.
People with psychosocial disabilities may try to enforce their Code rights by filing a grievance against an employer, making an application at the HRTO, or making an internal discrimination complaint to a service provider, housing provider, or to their employer. However, there is no strict requirement that someone who alleges reprisal must have already made an official complaint or application under the Code. Also, to claim reprisal, a person does not have to show that their rights were actually infringed.
The following will establish that someone experienced reprisal based on a Code ground:
– an action was taken against, or a threat was made to, the claimant
– the alleged action or threat was related to the claimant having claimed, or trying to enforce a Code right, and
– there was an intention on the part of the respondent to retaliate for the claim or the attempt to enforce the right. – OHRC
Dave Morris was the only Respondent at the Hearing to admit that Brian had told him about my intention to follow through with my complaint, however, it wasn’t long until Brian made this known to everyone on the Board.
An email was submitted as evidence and I saw it for the first time this November; this was the first thing to make me change from feeling bitter that Brian hadn’t done more to support me (but thinking it wasn’t his choice) to realizing that he had been lying to me, as well as Board Members, and that he was actually the key person behind my unethical termination.
To me, he was saying:
To me, he was claiming to be caring and understanding. To the rest of the Board, he was saying that we hadn’t spoken in 2 days and that I couldn’t be trusted due to my “condition”.
In the July 23 email Brian lists off 3 reasons that he feels I need to be blocked from all accounts (rather than just spoken to) before my imminent termination, they are;
“a) the knowledge of her condition” – here he openly admits, in writing, to the entire Board of Directors, that my disclosed disability, my medical condition, is a cause for his actions.
“b) her threat of human rights action against us on Tuesday night” – he even bolds this, it’s glaring. I am illegally facing reprisal for my request that my human rights be enforced. And if any Board Members were unaware of my complaints before (I do believe, after testimony, that Brian did not disclose this to them, despite my requests, but I’m not sure) they certainly knew from this email.
“c) the fact that I hadn’t heard from her in 2 days and had no idea how vindictive she would be” – this one actually made me laugh. For one, I’m not a vindictive person, and he had no reason to believe I was one, but more importantly, this is a lie. He had spoken to me less than 24 hours before (in that above text) when I disclosed my disability, a conversation he is even referencing here.
There are also a couple key issues with this, firstly, much of it is untrue;
I had told him the day before that I was not well and unable to come in due to anxiety – This text is posted above. While I was later in contacting him that day than usual, I did get in touch, and I had only delayed because I had been up all night in a depressed ball of anxiety – I slept in. I did not attend work that day due to illness.
Chris Morelli did NOT call Brian Goldenberg. Not only did he testify to his fact, under oath, but he managed to check his phone records that day; no calls in or out from Brian’s number, or the Theatre 20 office. Chris further stated that he, a) was not in regular contact with me at that time, and would not have called in regards to my whereabouts, b) I was no longer living with him, he would not have known about my whereabouts or activities, c) he had only twice called Brian, both times on my behalf, and months before this incident. On both occasions it was when I was living with him and because I was sick; I requested he called and he did so.
Guess Brian wasn’t on my side.
The majority of the Respondent’s case relied on their trying to prove that I was not dismissed because of a disability, or as reprisal (they claimed to not know about either, despite evidence to the contrary), but because of poor work performance. In their response they claimed I wouldn’t show up for work, would make mistakes such as spelling and grammatical errors in emails and other writing, and that I was too slow in getting things such as LOIs done. While I requested documents to support this, I never got any; that’s because those things aren’t true. But while I initially assumed they were making it all up, I now believe that Brian told certain Board Members that those were issues – three of them testified to such. Brian, however, never said a negative word to me, and again, no evidence was supported to prove these claims. It all went on Brian’s word.
So what did he have to say about it?
Well you might think that in a case such as this, where 90% of the time the only person I interacted with was Brian, where all the “evidence” provided by the Respondent was based off of “Brian told me..”, that Brian Goldenberg would be their star witness. No such luck. He didn’t attend the hearing, they didn’t bother to summon him, and so a lot of it came down to hearsay. That and my side.
That may make it sound like a victory for me, but honestly I’m disappointed he didn’t attend. I was looking forward to asking him questions under oath, as I truly believed, before this hearing, that he was just afraid to speak up. He has a family, he wouldn’t want to risk his job – I couldn’t respect that in an employer, but I did understand. But now he hasn’t worked for the company for about 6 months (they ran out of money in February, apparently), so I thought, what’s stopping him? However after hearing other’s testify I realized how often he lied to me, and how, at least on several key occasions as I’ve outlined here, how often he lied to his superiors. So would he have told the truth at the hearing? Who knows. But regardless I felt it as time for me to say something here.
More to come.
NOTE: As a side note, while I don’t believe anything I have said implies this, I do want to make something clear; my complaint was against Theatre 20 and in particular 3 men I named as Respondents; Chris Skillen, Chris Weber, and Brian Goldenberg. I have met other members of the company – Board Members, Founding Artists, Volunteers etc. – who have been completely lovely people, and I do not have any issue with them, nor do I think the issues outlined here should be attributed to them in any way. A few bad apples don’t spoil the whole bunch, though they did spoil over a year and a half of my life.