City of Leduc reaches settlement in class action over sexual misconduct against female workers
The City of Leduc in Alberta has reached a settlement in a class-action lawsuit over workplace misconduct, including allegations of sexual harassment and assault.
The deal was announced by the law firm of Burnet, Duckworth and Palmer LLP (BD&P) — and includes payments ranging from $10,000 to $285,000 per class member. Any woman who worked at the city in the past 20 years is eligible to participate in the class action, it said.
Christa Steele, plaintiff and a former Leduc firefighter, said she was relieved the city has “finally” acknowledged the harm women suffered in the workplace when they were “preyed upon and sexual assault was acceptable and without consequence.”
“When we set out to bring to light the discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual assault happening at Leduc, it was so it would stop and those who are responsible for the years of abuse we faced would be held accountable,” said Steele.
The city’s reaction
Derek Prohar, city manager for the City of Leduc, called the settlement a “significant moment in the history of our city.”
“Regretfully, we cannot undo the harm of the sexual misconduct that was experienced, but we are committed to learning from the past to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future,” said Prohar. “Healing will take time. Rebuilding trust will take time. We will do the necessary work and engage in ongoing conversations to ensure that our city is a place where everyone feels safe, respected, and valued.”
BD&P said the terms of the settlement include a confidential, non-adversarial and non-confrontational claims process designed to make the claim process simple and encourage victims to come forward.
There are also non-monetary remedies on the table, including a public apology from the mayor and a requirement that the city take whatever steps necessary to ensure there is no retaliation against any women who participate in the class action or make a claim.
“When this case came to us we knew that we had a responsibility to do whatever we could to help these women,” said Robert Martz, BD&P’s lead lawyer in this case. “We took on this case despite its legal challenges because what we saw at Leduc cannot be tolerated and those who discriminate, sexually harass, and sexually assault women need to be held accountable. We also believe that the legal system needs to evolve to hold employers accountable who tolerate this type of systemic sexual misconduct, and to encourage women who suffer this type of workplace abuse to come forward.”
BD&P said the individual compensation in this settlement exceeds that provided by the most notable workplace harassment class action settlements to date, including ones against the RCMP and the Department of National Defense.
A hearing for the Court of King’s Bench to approve the settlement is scheduled for July 24 in Edmonton.
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