Edmonton police work was jeopardized by harassment on the job, says former civilian employee

A former electronic surveillance technician with the Edmonton Police Service has filed a statement of claim in court, alleging his superiors did not address the harassment and bullying he was subjected to by a co-worker, and that their inaction jeopardized his safety, as well as police investigations.

Lawsuit claims uniformed superiors were aware of toxic workplace, but did not address it

In a statement of claim, Don Goss alleges he was harassed, bullied and intimidated by a fellow civilian co-worker during his 10 years with the Edmonton Police Service. (Rod Maldaner/ CBC)

A former electronic surveillance technician with the Edmonton Police Service has filed a statement of claim alleging his superiors did not address the harassment and bullying he was subjected to by a co-worker, and that their inaction jeopardized his safety and police investigations.

Don Goss was employed by EPS from 2006 to 2016. His work was to assist police officers during their investigations by supplying and installing the technology required for surveillance.

The co-worker in question is also a civilian employee, who is now retired. 

In his lawsuit, Goss alleges that despite his numerous attempts to address his co-worker's behaviour, it only intensified. 

"It turned into extreme safety and file-compromising behaviours," Goss said in an interview with CBC News. "I can't emphasize enough how outrageous these behaviours were."

Goss won't provide detailed accounts of the most serious offences because he doesn't want to reveal sensitive police information. Court documents indicate that they will be presented at trial. 

Statement of claim filed

In January, Goss filed a statement of claim in Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench, seeking $500,000 for general damages. The Edmonton Police Service, Chief Rod Knecht, the City of Edmonton, and four John Does are named as defendants. 

EPS declined to comment, as the matter is now before the courts. The City of Edmonton also declined. The police service and the city have not yet filed statements of defence.

Goss's lawyer, Robert Hladun, told CBC the case was complicated by the fact that Goss was a civilian employee, with no clear chain of command.

"It's always difficult in a workplace environment," Hladun said. "You get males, it's a little more 'suck it up', but there comes a point when there's nothing to suck up, it's all wrong." 

Allegations of bullying by co-worker

In the court document, Goss claims that his co-worker began bullying him within a few weeks of his hiring. 

He was shocked when the man introduced him to other members using a derogatory phrase. 

"I was introduced to individuals in a disgusting and obscene way," said Goss, who called out the co-worker to no avail. 

"I was ridiculed for the way I ate, my body type. It was inferred that I had a drinking problem."

The court documents claim he reported the bullying to the sergeant who was responsible for his unit, but the harassment continued.

"I was contradicted on work techniques, decisions made during investigations," said Goss. "The list goes on and on." 

Harassment investigation 

In 2013, Goss complained to a superintendent, which triggered an internal EPS investigation into the harassment. CBC has obtained a copy of the findings, which were prepared in July 2014. 

The co-worker was temporarily moved out of the unit while the investigation was conducted. 

The sergeant responsible for the surveillance detail at the time was also investigated, but continued to supervise Goss. He was promoted soon afterward.

"As you can imagine, working for someone who's up for investigation on information you brought forward, it didn't go well for me," said Goss.

Out of the 15 allegations that EPS chose to investigate, three were found to be true. The co-worker was allowed to return to his position. 

Findings of harassment

In the investigation findings, EPS concluded that the co-worker "behaves in a condescending manner towards Mr. Goss in front of others," and engaged in other behaviour that "undermines self-respect." 

The findings also acknowledge that "it is clear the working relationships in the electronic surveillance detail are dysfunctional and will need to be addressed by the supervisor."

Goss had to attend mediation sessions with his harasser. 

"To send a proven bully and harasser to mediation with his victim is absurd," he said.

[They] made it perfectly clear, through actions and words, that my days were going to be numbered there.- Don Goss, former EPS civilian employee

In a memo written by EPS in June 2015 in preparation for further mediation, the authors state that Goss's two predecessors were also subjected to harassment and bullying by the same person. 

They also write that Goss stated he was still being harassed, but that "EPS has a very different perspective on all that."

From that point on, Goss felt his superiors were trying to get rid of him.

"[They] made it perfectly clear, through actions and words, that my days were going to be numbered there." 

His supervisors undermined his decisions and techniques during a critical investigation, said Goss. 

'I was forced out'

In March 2015, Goss went on a medical leave of absence due to the stress, and the Workers Compensation Board accepted his claim as a workplace injury.

"I was, physically and mentally, a broken person," Goss said of his last years of employment with EPS. 

I submitted my resignation in complete despair, in a broken state.- Don Goss, former EPS civilian employee

He returned to work in a different position, but the harassment continued, he said. After a second leave through the WCB, Goss officially resigned in January 2016. 

"I submitted my resignation in complete despair, in a broken state," he said. "There's no question I was forced out."

Goss said he felt compelled to share his story.

"My conscience won't let me do otherwise. This behaviour needs to be respectfully called out, so that people can be aware and it can be corrected."

Hladun said his client wanted to use official channels to resolve the issues.

"He's trying to do the right thing, and he's trying not to leave a mess for somebody else to clean up."

About the Author

Josee St-Onge

Journalist

Josee St-Onge is a journalist with CBC Edmonton. She has also reported in French for Radio-Canada in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Reach her at josee.st-onge@cbc.ca