Global B.C. anchor Chris Gailus subject of sexual harassment complaint
Company claims accusation was taken seriously, investigated and 'determined to be unfounded'
A Vancouver make-up artist has filed an application in Federal Court seeking to have the Canadian Human Rights Commission consider a sexual harassment complaint against Global B.C. news anchor Chris Gailus.
According to court documents, Dawne Koke claims Gailus made remarks about her buttocks, pretended to get erections while she was applying his make-up and grabbed her buttock on one occasion at a work party.
She claims Gailus apologized to her in an email after she confronted him and that he then stopped making inappropriate comments.
Koke filed the human rights complaint in December 2014 against Shaw, which then owned Global. She followed up with a complaint alleging retaliation after her employment was terminated in August 2015.
The CHRC refused to hear the complaint because Koke has outstanding union grievances in respect to the end of her employment which the commission said would cover the same territory as her human rights complaint.
But in her application for a judicial review of that decision, Koke claims the union "refused to file a grievance with Shaw regarding (her) allegations of sexual harassment by Gailus or (her) allegations that Shaw did not follow company policy in respect of the applicant's internal complaint of sexual harassment."
She is asking the Federal Court to add Gailus' name as a respondent to her original complaint against Shaw. She also wants an order for the CHRC to investigate and prepare a report on the merits of her complaint.
'Determined to be unfounded'
Shaw and Gailus have not responded to the Federal Court application filed last month.
In a Facebook post, Global B.C. said the company "was aware of an accusation against a member of the Global B.C. staff" but did not name Gailus. The post said "the allegation was determined to be unfounded" and noted that Global News has "a zero tolerance approach to these matters."
The Federal Court documents include a letter to a CHRC officer from Howard Levitt, the lawyer acting for Shaw in relation to the human rights complaint.
"At the end of the day, it was inconclusive whether sexual harassment had occurred by Gailus vis-a-vis the complainant. Gailus denied many of the allegations," Levitt wrote.
"Notwithstanding that and the absence of corroborating evidence supporting any of the complainant's assertions, the respondent's investigation determined that, on the balance of probabilities, he had behaved inappropriately, disciplined him with a warning and underscored the standards of behaviour expected of him."
In the letter, Levitt said Koke was repeatedly asked what she wanted as a remedy: "the discipline of Gailus, his discharge, a transfer of him or her, or anything at all. Her repeated response was that all she had ever wished was for the behaviour to cease and it had."
'My apology is absolute'
The lawyer wrote that Shaw had "every reason to believe" Koke was satisfied.
He also wrote that the company spoke with other women Koke claimed had been harassed and that "none of them felt that Gailus had made any inappropriate sexual comments to them or that they felt harassed by him otherwise in any respect."
The court documents contain a copy of Koke's complaint to the human rights commission.
She claims the alleged behaviour occurred between 2006 and October 2013, when she allegedly wrote to Gailus to say "I found your comments today, as in the past, to not only be rude but unprofessional."
She claims Gailus initially replied to say "he thought we were friends and had just been joking."
"This implied that I did not have a sense of humour. I replied that a friend 'does not continually over years reduce the other to an ass or a vagina with constant inappropriate comments. Not only is it inappropriate but your comments reduce me to an individual devoid of the ability of intelligent conversation or feeling," the complaint says.
"Mr. Gailus responded: 'I can't debate what is funny and what isn't, only because the right answer is how YOU perceived it. Again, I'm truly sorry. I had a different understanding of what our friendship could bear. I'm sorry. Your point is clear and my apology is absolute.'"
'Dealt with accordingly'
Koke claims that while she was told Gailus "had been dealt with accordingly" she didn't feel the response to her complaint was consistent with Shaw's policies.
In a second complaint she claims Shaw retaliated against her after she filed her first complaint with the CHRC. She claims she went on sick leave because of stress and "did not feel safe returning to work" in 2015.
She also claimed she was unfairly accused of making a negative comment about Gailus online in relation to a controversial incident in which he appeared on a local radio station and was asked who he would "F, kill or marry," among Laureen Harper (then prime minister Stephen Harper's wife), Health Minister Rona Ambrose or former governor general Michaëlle Jean.
Gailus was criticized on social media for appearing to go along with the joke and later wrote on Twitter that he was "caught completely off guard by an offensive and disrespectful segment ... It was not funny and it was #NOTokay."
Koke claims she was actually supporting Gailus — not calling him out.
The letter from Levitt to the CHRC in the court file says Koke was herself the subject of two workplace harassment complaints and was considered to have abandoned her employment by not returning from sick leave and failing to provide medical evidence supporting her absence.
In response to an email request for comment, Levitt deferred to Global to respond. Global responded to a request, but had not provided a comment at the time of publication.
CBC tried to reach out to Gailus and received an automatic response saying he's away from the office until next week. Koke didn't respond to our attempts to reach her. The union had no comment.