WATCH ABOVE: Labour and employment lawyer Howard Levitt on why he doesn’t think Jian Ghomeshi has a case
TORONTO – Lawyers for radio star Jian Ghomeshi have launched their promised lawsuit against the CBC, but one Canadian labour lawyer believes the suit has no legal grounds.
Ghomeshi is seeking $55 million from the CBC, according to the lawsuit, plus special damages, alleging breach of confidence, bad faith and defamation by the public broadcaster. Employment and labour lawyer Howard Levitt says the lawsuit amounts to nothing more than a PR stunt.
“It’s a joke really; he’s entitled to zero because he cannot sue civilly. He’s a member of a union,” Levitt told Global News.
“Unionized employees…cannot sue for wrongful dismissal, they can’t sue for constructive dismissal, they can’t sue for anything arising over the employment relationship. All they can do is go to an arbitrator and hope to get their job back and some back-pay.”
Levitt suggested his damages would amount to however long it takes to get to the arbitration board, and if the arbitrator decides Ghomeshi has a case, the most he can get is the back-pay to that point, “probably a year,” said Levitt.
The suit says “the claim is the result of the CBC misusing personal and confidential information provided to it in confidence and under common interest privilege.”
WATCH: Why your personal life could get you fired. Marianne Dimain reports.
On Sunday, the CBC said it was severing ties with Ghomeshi, because of “information” it had received about him. Lawyers from Dentons Canada LLP then announced their intention to sue the CBC. Shortly after that, Ghomeshi posted a long Facebook message saying he had been fired by the public broadcaster for his “sexual behaviour.”
In the Facebook post, Ghomeshi said he was open with the CBC about his sexual behaviour, after he became aware that a freelance writer was looking into allegations that he’d engaged in “abusive relations.”
Ghomeshi said in the post that he only engages in sexual practices that are “mutually agreed upon” and “consensual.”
Levitt suspects Ghomeshi wrote it before the “other side of the story” gets out.
The lawsuit alleges that the CBC misused “personal and confidential information provided to it in confidence.”
It also says that Ghomeshi was not aware that the CBC was continuing to conduct an investigation into the matter or that the information would be used as basis for his dismissal.
“Mr. Ghomeshi would not have shared information about his private life with the CBC, had he appreciated that the CBC would ultimately use the information provided to it to terminate his employment,” says the suit.
The suit goes on to say the “conduct of the CBC has negatively impacted and will continue to impact Mr. Ghomeshi’s public reputation and future employment and other opportunities.”
Levitt said if the CBC was his client, he would have first advised them to keep personnel issues quiet, but changed his tactic after Ghomeshi’s Facebook post.
“Once the other side has attacked you—which is what he’s effectively done in his 1600-word diatribe—then you have to fight back or put your side of story,” said Levitt. “Because right now they’re being hurt by his allegations, and they should be defending themselves. He’s opened the door to them, so now it’s open to them to fight back and state their position and state why they think they’re right and why they let him go.”
Reporter Jesse Brown, who co-authored the Star report detailing the allegations, tweeted Tuesday morning that “more women have come forward” regarding Ghomeshi, but did not provide additional details.
Ghomeshi’s lawyers at Dentons Canada LLP said they were unable to comment “as this matter is before the courts” in an email to Global News Tuesday.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
There is no real limit to the damages a person can claim.
A CBC spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.