Edmonton

Edmonton teen sues employer who assaulted him on remote worksite

An Edmonton teenager is suing his former employer who was convicted of assaulting him earlier this year.

Teen seeks compensation for therapy and loss of income after boss was convicted of assault

Kamaljit Bhalla is being sued by one of two teen workers he was convicted of assaulting. (Facebook)

An Edmonton teenager says he suffers from fear, flashbacks and depression a year and a half after he and his friend were assaulted by their employer on a remote construction site in Alberta.

The teen, who was 17 at the time, filed a lawsuit against his former boss Kamaljit Bhalla on Sept. 18.

The lawsuit alleges that Bhalla fraudulently transferred more than $1.1-million in assets to his wife to protect them from any potential award of damages in a civil claim.

The legal action comes seven months after Bhalla was convicted of assaulting and uttering threats against the teen and his friend, who was 15 when it happened, over a three-day period in March 2017.

CBC is not revealing the identity of the teens because they were minors at the time of the assault.

In the statement of claim, the older teen says he was repeatedly slapped, punched and kicked by Bhalla.

He accuses Bhalla of locking him outside in freezing temperatures for hours without proper clothing and conducting an intimate search of his body that included rubbing his genitals.

He said the incident in Valleyview, Alta. 350 km northwest of Edmonton, has left him with post-traumatic stress disorder and an inability to work or attend school.

'Lasting impacts'

"This was a boy who put his faith in another individual and that individual took advantage," said his lawyer Avnish Nanda, in an interview.

"He beat him, he threatened him and he left lasting impacts on my client — impacts that will take years for him to resolve and work through."
Edmonton teenager recounts terrifying ordeal on worksite 1:17
 

In March 2017, the boys left home eager to earn some money in their first work experience.

Bhalla, who they met through a family friend, drove them to the job site — a two-storey building at the back of a hotel stretching out into a snowy, empty field in Valleyview. Bhalla arranged accommodation at a nearby private home.

But Bhalla's verbal abuse escalated to violence and threats, court heard during his criminal trial in Valleyview last February.

In a victim impact statement, the older teen said he still feared Bhalla would hurt him and his family.

During the trial, Judge Jasmine Sihra concluded there was a power imbalance between Bhalla and his victims. The remote location prevented the boys from leaving, she said.

"They were at your mercy," Sihra told Bhalla. "The impact you had on them is demonstrated by the substance of their victim impact statements, as well as their demeanour upon reading those statements. Obviously ... it still lingers, the emotion and the impact that your actions had on them."

Bhalla pleaded guilty to assault and uttering threats. In exchange, the Crown dropped a string of sexual-related charges and a charge of assault with a motor vehicle.

He was sentenced to 15 months of house arrest and banned from hiring minors.  

But Nanda said a monetary award is also needed to support his client as he goes through psychological treatment "to overcome what's happened to him."

The lawsuit seeks $500,000 in damages plus monies for "special damages" stemming from loss of income and costs for future health care. 

"This lawsuit is part of that process to provide him with the funds to seek that treatment, to engage in that rehabilitation that he'll need to reintegrate back into society," said Nanda.

Fraud allegations

Documents included in the lawsuit show that after the incident, Bhalla sold property worth $345,000 to his wife Shalki Rana for $1. He also transferred interest in another property valued at $750,000 for nominal consideration.

The lawsuit alleges Bhalla added his wife as director of his company J&K Heating, and created "an entity" of which she is the sole owner, controller and shareholder. 

Nanda said the transfers were fraudulently made "in order for my client to not be able to collect on any judgement that's awarded to him as a result of what Mr. Bhalla did to him." That allegation has not been proven in court.​

CBC reached Bhalla and Rana by email but they did not provide comment.

Bhalla's conviction prompted a federal investigation into his employment of a temporary foreign worker. On Thursday, a government spokesperson said the investigation is complete but would not reveal the results.

andrea.huncar@cbc.ca
@andreahuncar

About the Author

Andrea Huncar

Reporter

Andrea Huncar reports on human rights, immigrant and Indigenous communities, youth at-risk and the justice system. Contact her in confidence at andrea.huncar@cbc.ca