University disputes workplace harassment claims

McKendry ‘emphatically denied’ allegations.

McKendry ‘emphatically denied’ allegations.

By Matt DiMera
[coordinating editor]

Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) denies that former president John McKendry and current deputy provost and vice president academic Jane Fee “terrorized, threatened, abused, harassed,” or “intimidated,” a former assistant, according to its response to a lawsuit filed last month.

The university filed its written response in the B.C. Supreme Court on Aug. 16, 2013, to a July 26 civil suit filed on behalf of Sandra Kuzyk, who worked as executive assistant to several KPU presidents before she was fired by current president Alan Davis on March 27, 2013.

KPU claims that McKendry “emphatically denied” allegations of harassment when he met with board members Gordon Schoberg and Amrik Virk in June 2012, and that Kuzyk and McKendry knew each other well and their families were friends.

The university denies that any of its employees were dismissed because they raised concerns regarding McKendry’s behaviour or that other employees were rewarded because they failed to act to stop McKendry, calling those allegations “frivolous, vexatious, and entirely without foundation.”

According to the university, KPU restructured the president’s office and Davis no longer needed as much administrative support and was “diligently searching” to reduce costs.

Davis now uses a junior level assistant and a graduate intern.

KPU also claims that it was within its rights to terminate Kuzyk’s employment without cause, and that it offered her the maximum severance allowed by provincial law.

The university’s written response also argues that the court has no jurisdiction over Kuzyk’s claim and that it should be handled by WorkSafeBC.

KPU also says that it has several policies in place to deal with harassment, discrimination and violence in the workplace and that Kuzyk was very familiar with all of them. The university also offers confidential counselling services to employees regarding workplace family and other issues.

The university says that Kuzyk was encouraged to discuss her concerns directly with McKendry and Fee, but that she never did. It also alleges that she never made any formal complaints or asked for any formal investigations.

None of KPU’s or Kuzyk’s claims have been proven in court.

KPU spokesperson Joanne Saunders declined to comment on the lawsuit.