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Civil servant gets his shirt in a bunch, investigation ensues

Federal documents detail the process through which a civil servant was reimbursed $70 when his shirt was damaged by his chair.
Federal documents detail the process through which a civil servant was reimbursed $70 when his shirt was damaged by his chair. Global News

A government chair destroyed the shirt of the federal employee, leading to an investigation that eventually ended with a $70 payment and absolving the Queen of any responsibility, according to documents obtained by Global News.

On Aug. 15, 2014 a public servant at the corporate services sector of Treasury Board damaged his shirt after having it “pushed into the recesses” in the armrests of his office chair according to recently-released documents obtained through access to information laws.

What followed was more than a month spent conducting an internal investigation, determining the likely cause of the damage, submitting a request for an ergonomic assessment, finding a “more suitable” temporary chair until the department purchased a new one, filling out the paperwork to fulfil the employee’s claim for $70 and, finally, signing a form releasing the Queen of any liability or blame.

“It is also understood that Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada does not admit to any liability … by acceptance of this release or by payment of the said sum of $70,” the form signed by four witnesses reads.

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An email was sent from Global News to the employee at the centre of the case to find out what caused the damage, whether he had previously complained about any risks associated with his chair and how much time he spent filing the paperwork necessary to receive the $70-claim. The email requesting comment was bumped to Treasury Board media relations, which didn’t provide a response by deadline.

The name of the individual was not redacted from the Internal Incident Investigation Report —though the likely cause of the damage to his shirt was, under the section of the access to information legislation limiting access to personal information.

The same section of the law was cited for redacting receipts “confirming the cost of replacing” the damaged shirt.

According to a Treasury Board directive on claims, public servants can file requests for compensation to cover losses, expenditures or damages.

“Your approval for reimbursing the employee for damages to his effect is recommended,” the chief financial officer of corporate services wrote to the secretary of the Treasury Board Yaprak Baltacioglu.

And so, on Sept. 22, five and a half weeks after the employee damaged his shirt, the Treasury Board approved a reimbursement of $70.

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