Alberta jobs minister says allegations in lawsuit against premier’s office ‘new to me’

An Alberta minister says he was not conscious of allegations made in a lawsuit filed against the office of the premier of Alberta by his former chief of employees.

Minister of Jobs, Financial system and Innovation Doug Schweitzer’s former chief of employees Ariella Kimmel, in a press release of declare filed Oct. 1, alleges sexual harassment and fabricated rumours of her leaking tales to the media in addition to heavy consuming by ministers and senior staffers contained in the legislature.

Kimmel alleges repeated makes an attempt to have her points addressed had been ignored, earlier than she was ultimately fired this previous February.

Not one of the allegations has been confirmed in courtroom. An announcement of defence has not but been filed. Schweitzer just isn’t named within the lawsuit.

Learn extra:
Former Alberta UCP staffer alleges sexual harassment, heavy drinking in lawsuit against premier’s office

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Whereas talking at an unrelated information convention Thursday, Schweitzer was requested in regards to the allegations made within the lawsuit. He stated whereas he has not learn the assertion of declare, quite a lot of what he learn within the information protection on Wednesday was new info to him.

“Fairly a little bit of it was new to me, notably in relation to my colleague — all of that info was new to me yesterday,” stated Schweitzer.

“I discovered quite a bit yesterday in that report. When she got here on as my chief of employees I had by no means labored together with her earlier than. We constructed a relationship over time the place I got here to belief her. I nonetheless belief her to this present day. She was a superb staffer. I used to be a reference for her. I’d work together with her once more any second, any day. I imagine in her. She is devoted, she works extremely exhausting.

“Sexual harassment is a matter that now we have to take fully critically in any office. We now have to ensure we maintain ourselves to a excessive commonplace in authorities, notably if you’re able of management. And I need to be sure that we ship that sign to employees and individuals who work within the legislature, individuals who work for the federal government of Alberta, that sexual harassment just isn’t acceptable, interval.”

Amongst different issues, the lawsuit alleges that Ivan Bernardo — a principal secretary in Premier Jason Kenney’s authorities — made a sexually inappropriate remark to considered one of Kimmel’s feminine employees members.

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“Mr. Bernardo checked out this feminine’s physique and instructed her ‘I haven’t seen you on this ground earlier than as a result of with a physique like that, I might have observed you!’” the assertion of declare reads.

Learn extra:
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The subsequent day, Kimmel reported the incident to the chief of employees to the well being minister, in addition to the premier’s director of points administration, in accordance with the doc.

A few month later, on Nov. 17, Kenney’s principal secretary met with Kimmel and allegedly instructed her Bernardo “was not going to be fired” and had determined to depart his publish by the top of the yr.

In a press release Wednesday, Bernardo stated it could be inappropriate to remark because the matter is earlier than the courts.

Click to play video: 'Former Alberta UCP staffer alleges sexual harassment in lawsuit against premier’s office'

Former Alberta UCP staffer alleges sexual harassment in lawsuit in opposition to premier’s workplace

Former Alberta UCP staffer alleges sexual harassment in lawsuit in opposition to premier’s workplace

“When it got here to a state of affairs involving Ivan Bernardo, I heard rumblings — like third and fourth hand,” Schweitzer stated Thursday. “By the point I heard about it within the legislature, it was already being seemed into by way of the HR course of and thru the premier’s workplace. Once more, quite a lot of that info was new to me yesterday.”

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The federal government responded to the allegations in a press release Wednesday, saying Bernardo has not been a authorities worker since December 2020 and the choice to finish Kimmel’s employment was unrelated to the issues contained within the assertion of declare.

The federal government stated it should provoke an impartial overview of human useful resource insurance policies for political employees, “guaranteeing that processes are clear and that every one employees are totally conscious of procedures and insurance policies.”

The allegations had been introduced up within the legislature once more Thursday throughout query interval. NDP MLA Janis Irwin stated it’s “merely unbelievable” that the minister didn’t know in regards to the complaints.

“There’s two situations in my thoughts: both the minister is totally unaware of what’s taking place in his personal workplace, which is troubling in itself, or he’s deliberately deceptive Albertans. Which is it?”

Affiliate Minister of Standing of Girls Whitney Issik responded, saying the province has zero tolerance for sexual harassment within the office.

“We beforehand mandated necessary respect within the office coaching for all authorities workers, together with political employees,” she stated, reiterating the province will overview human assets insurance policies.

The NDP additionally discovered that Bernardo left authorities and ended up at a legislation agency engaged on a authorities file by way of Alberta Well being Providers. Well being Minister Jason Copping stated he has spoken with the AHS CEO and board chair about it.

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“They’ve indicated to me that they’ve requested the agency for which this particular person labored for, that they be faraway from the AHS file whereas this matter is being addressed,” he stated. “This can be a critical difficulty and we’re taking it critically.”

Click to play video: 'Steps to tackle workplace abuse and harassment'

Steps to sort out office abuse and harassment

Steps to sort out office abuse and harassment – Jan 28, 2021

Kimmel’s lawyer Kathryn Marshall was unable to reply to Thursday’s new political developments, however made it clear in a press release that “no political staffer ought to ever be fired from his or her job for blowing the whistle on sexual harassment, as was achieved on this case.”

Schweitzer added that he’ll see to it that the federal government overview is thorough.

“Hopefully that could be a sturdy train for us to be sure that we catch any points if there are, and ensure there are penalties if there’s discovered to be sexual harassment by way of that overview. Hopefully there are penalties that include it,” he stated.

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“It additionally sends a sign to the federal government of Alberta as properly that we need to have interaction with frequently that we take these conditions very critically,” he stated. “We need to maintain ourselves to the very best attainable commonplace.”

© 2021 International Information, a division of Corus Leisure Inc.

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