Hockey play­ers sue univer­sity for $1M over al­leged abuses

Calgary Herald - - CITY+REGION -

Four play­ers from the Univer­sity of Leth­bridge women’s hockey team are su­ing the school, its sports di­rec­tor and the team’s coach.

A state­ment of claim filed Tues­day in Court of Queen’s Bench names Olivia Alexan­der, Alan­nah Jensen, Chelsea Kasprick and Brit­tney Sawyer as plain­tiffs seek­ing $1 mil­lion in gen­eral dam­ages, in ad­di­tion to other sums.

The women claim in court doc­u­ments ob­tained by Post­media that they were ha­rassed and in­tim­i­dated while play­ing for the Pronghorns.

They al­lege coach Michelle Janus made abu­sive re­marks to play­ers and al­lowed bul­ly­ing on the team.

The women also al­lege the univer­sity and sports ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Ken McInnes did not do enough — namely fir­ing Janus as head coach — when mul­ti­ple con­cerns were raised as early as 2015.

None of the al­le­ga­tions has been proven in court and the univer­sity has said it will not pro­vide any com­ments spe­cific to the law­suit.

The 13-page state­ment of claim says the play­ers were “sub­jected to the ha­rass­ing and de­mean­ing con­duct, rep­re­sen­ta­tions, omis­sion and/or neg­li­gence of McInnes and Janus.”

“The de­fen­dants ha­rassed and bul­lied the plain­tiffs by en­gag­ing in threat­en­ing and in­tim­i­dat­ing be­hav­iours, not pro­vid­ing them proper care, call­ing them names and sug­gest­ing they were men­tally un­sta­ble on a daily ba­sis,” the doc­u­ment states.

The play­ers also al­lege the univer­sity breached its con­tracts with the play­ers by fail­ing to main­tain an en­vi­ron­ment free from dis­crim­i­na­tion, bul­ly­ing and ha­rass­ment.

A list of dam­ages al­leged by the play­ers in­clude phys­i­cal, psy­cho­log­i­cal and emo­tional harm, de­pres­sion, post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der, panic at­tacks, headaches, in­som­nia and loss of in­ter­est in play­ing sports, specif­i­cally hockey.

Among the plan­tiffs’ spe­cific com­plaints con­tained in the state­ment of claim:

■ A fine jar es­tab­lished for break­ing ■ team rules saw play­ers fined for their per­sonal lives or sex­ual his­tory;

■ A player who told Janus and McInnes the team cul­ture was af­fect­ing her men­tal health was told “life isn’t fair” and “you are men­tally un­sta­ble.”

■ Janus told Kasprick in Oc­to­ber ■ 2016 not to talk about or men­tion her off-sea­son shoul­der surgery if she wanted to con­tinue play­ing. “Due to the threat Chelsea felt she was un­able to show she was hurt­ing or in pain. As a re­sult, Chelsea stopped go­ing to the team train­ers, re­hab and physio,” the law­suit claims. On the ad­vice of two doctors, the player now re­quires more ex­ten­sive surgery to ad­dress dam­age to her shoul­der, ac­cord­ing to the state­ment of claim.

Janus has coached the Pronghorns women’s hockey team since July 2015, ac­cord­ing to the univer­sity’s web­site. McInnes, who has been at the Univer­sity of Leth­bridge for al­most 30 years, was named sports ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor around the same time.

A list of 21 com­plaints were sub­mit­ted to the univer­sity in May by six play­ers, in­clud­ing the four who have filed the law­suit. They out­lined con­cerns with Janus un­der the univer­sity’s ha­rass­ment and dis­crim­i­na­tion pol­icy and asked for her ter­mi­na­tion.

That re­sulted in the univer­sity launch­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. It con­cluded with a re­sponse from act­ing chief hu­man re­sources of­fi­cer Nancy Walker on July 31.

The de­fen­dants ha­rassed and bul­lied the plain­tiffs by en­gag­ing in threat­en­ing and in­tim­i­dat­ing be­hav­iours.

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