City of Leduc files defence, denies firefighters’ abuse allegations

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City of Leduc files defence, denies firefighters’ abuse allegations
WATCH ABOVE: In a statement of defence filed this week, the City of Leduc denies all allegations levied by multiple employees. Breanna Karstens-Smith reports. – Sep 7, 2022

Months after a pair of City of Leduc firefighters filed a statement of claim alleging years of sexual assault, harassment and bullying, the city has filed its defence.

The city had argued it did not have to file a statement of defence but a court ordered one be filed by Sept. 7.

In its statement of defence filed the day before the deadline, the city denies every allegation made in the claim.

It also argues there are multiple reasons why the case should not be heard.

“The Plaintiffs’ claims fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of a labour arbitrator,” the statement of defence reads.

The city says the “Plaintiffs and proposed Class Members failed to reach out to their bargaining unit representative and/or properly pursue the grievance process stipulated in their Collective Agreement.”

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The women named in the lawsuit, Christa Steele and Mindy Smith, have said they brought their complaints to higher ups but that those were never acted upon.

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Both women have also filed with the Workers’ Compensation Board, something the city believes negates the claim from going ahead.

“The Plaintiffs and proposed Class Members have sought and received compensation from the Workers’ Compensation Board and are not entitled to double-recovery of any alleged injuries, losses or damages,” the statement of defence reads.

Steele was hired by the City of Leduc in 2002, eventually becoming a paramedic and firefighter.

In the statement of claim, she says she suffered nearly two decades of alleged abuse including being asked inappropriate questions, having a colleague expose himself to her and having a different co-worker reportedly get into her bed while sleeping in the female dorms.

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Firefighter Smith makes similar allegations in the statement of claim.

A City of Leduc employee since 2013, Smith claims she often heard derogatory comments about the other female firefighters and that she was sexually assaulted while on the job.

In its statement of defence, the city argues the majority of the allegations occurred more than two years ago so they fall outside the Limitations Act.

The claim says the city has had proper workplace policies and procedures in place including a sexual harassment policy.

It also says it provided “adequate training, education and supervision of its employees in relation to its policies and procedures.”

The City of Leduc also pointed out it commissioned a third party review of behaviour within the service. That has not been released publicly.

It is asking for the entire case to be thrown out.

Both the city and its lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.

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