(Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

Former Whitehorse gas station employee sues over alleged sexual harassment, assault

Susan Lynn Keleher alleges there was a ‘campaign’ of sexual harassment and assault against her

A former employee of Whitehorse’s Goody’s Gas has filed a lawsuit against the store manager, alleging that he “initiated a campaign of sexual harassment and sexual assault” against her when she worked there in 2016.

Goody’s and the manager, however, have denied the allegations, claiming that the woman initiated and willingly participated in conversations of a sexual nature.

In a statement of claim filed to the Yukon Supreme Court Jan. 8, Susan Lynn Keleher alleges that she began working for Goody’s around the end of August 2016, and that she “worked closely” with manager Norman Goodman.

Starting at the beginning of her employment in late August 2016, Keleher alleges that Goodman sexually harassed and assaulted her, claiming that he made “sexually explicit and derogatory comments” about her body, threatened her with “physical and sexual violence,” sought “sexual favours in exchange for allowing (Keleher) to perform her ordinary work duties” and sexually touched Keleher.

The statement of claim also alleges that Goodman “threatened (Keleher) with death and burial should she make a complaint about the Sexual Harassment and Assaults.”

Keleher did not “encourage, acquiesce in or consent” to any of the alleged harassment or assaults, the statement says. The incidents “occurred in the course and context of an abuse of the power relationship between employee and employer,” the statement continues, and created a “toxic workplace” that Keleher alleges Goody’s did nothing to address.

As a result, Keleher claims that she has not been able to work and has “suffered and continues to suffer significant emotional injuries, including post-traumatic stress and loss of self-esteem, leading to loss of enjoyment and quality of life, and pain and suffering.” The claim also states that the incidents allegedly “constitute a repudiation” of the employment contract between Goody’s and Keleher that amounts to a “constructive wrongful dismissal.”

The lawsuit is seeking damages and costs from both Goody’s and Goodman.

In a statement of defence filed Feb. 16, both Goodman and Goody’s deny the allegations.

The statement of defence denies that there was any “closeness” between Norman and Keleher, and that their “working relationship was similar to that between” Goodman and other Goody’s employees. It also denies the “campaign of sexual harassment and sexual assault,” and in turn, claims that Keleher “regularly made inappropriate comments of a sexual nature” towards Goodman and other employees,” “initiated talks of a sexual nature and willingly participated in talks of a sexual nature” and “never objected” to any sexual comments Goodman made.

The defence alleges that Keleher “left her work” with Goody’s on Dec. 15, 2017, “out of her own free will because she was aware that she was at risk of being terminated … based on her gross incompetence and gross negligence in the performance of her duties.”

The statement of defence asks for the claim to be dismissed with costs awarded to the defendants.

None of the allegations has been tested in court.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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