An investigation into the alleged reprisal of a safety specialist at the Faro mine complex uncovered what some employees claimed was a culture of intimidation created by the site superintendent, according to a summary report.
In a 19-page document produced last year, two investigating safety officers with the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board (YWCHSB) conclude that Parsons Inc., the company managing construction at the site, and site superintendent Len Faber violated the territorial Occupational Health and Safety Act several times.
The report is not public. The News obtained it late last year.
YWCHSB spokesperson Andrew Robulack said in an email that he could “neither confirm nor deny” the report’s authenticity when the News shared its copy with him.
However, several sources confirmed to the News that the document is legitimate. Key names and dates in the report also correspond with those in publicly-available documents, including court records.
Parsons and Faber are currently facing five charges each under the Occupational Health and Safety Act as a result of the investigation outlined in the report. The charges include three counts of attempting to intimidate workers, one count of “obstructing or hindering” two safety officers and failing to maintain a safe workplace.
Both have pleaded not guilty to all charges. Along with working at the site, Faber is also Faro’s mayor.
Responding to a requests for comment on the report, Faber’s lawyer James Tucker wrote in an email that he and his client “take issue with the manner in which the investigation was conducted as well as with the findings and conclusions as they are set out in that letter.”
“We remain optimistic that a favourable result will be achieved after a Court fully and properly reviews the evidence surrounding these charges,” Tucker wrote.
Parsons spokesperson Bryce McDevitt wrote in an email that the company doesn’t “comment on ongoing litigation” but “is actively defending these charges.”
Dated July 23, 2019, the report is addressed to complainant Craig Battaglia, a former senior safety specialist at the Faro mine site for Parsons. It’s also addressed to Greg Sutherland, Parsons’ vice-president of Canada Environmental, and Marie Rousseau, the director of the Faro mine remediation project at Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada.
According to the report, Battaglia filed a complaint with the YWCHSB on Nov. 27, 2018, alleging Parsons “took action against him because (he) sought to uphold the Yukon Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations.”
Specifically, Battaglia claimed that Faber became “indignant, verbally abusive and belligerent” towards him during a meeting on Sept. 11, 2018 after he raised safety concerns about an intersection between a public access road and one used by the site’s 40-tonne rock trucks.
As well, Battaglia provided investigators with a a copy of a Nov. 6, 2018 entry in the mine manager’s worksite logbook that appeared to read, “firing CB,” and alleged a colleague had overheard managers discussing plans to “get rid” of him.
Battaglia was fired in January 2019.
Two investigating safety officers interviewed more than a dozen Parsons’ employees as part of their investigation, according to the report, some of whom “came forward on their own accord to discuss their concerns.”
Faber declined to be interviewed in December 2018, the report says, and “was not available” when given a second opportunity.
Employees interviewed about the Sept. 11 meeting told investigators Faber “got into an agitated state,” decided to “go after” Battaglia “in a very demeaning way” and used the “F-bomb” during the interaction, according to the report.
One employee added he thought the conversation was “ridiculous,” the report says, “because operating 40 tonne rock trucks within the vicinity of public traffic without adequate traffic control had the potential of putting ‘Lives in jeopardy.’”
Managers, however told investigators they had been “frustrated” with Battaglia and his demeanour, and that it “no secret” that Battaglia “wasn’t the best fit” at the site. One acknowledged that there were discussions about replacing, but not firing him, while another said there were conversations about transferring Battaglia to another work site.
The employees who came forward to investigators spoke more generally about the work atmosphere at the site — specifically, Faber’s alleged attitude towards and treatment of employees.
Among other things, they alleged he’d “retaliate(d)” against another worker who’d also brought forward a safety concern at an employee meeting, used the “c-word” in front of employees and would yell, scream and have “verbal outbursts in a manner that was intimidating and unprofessional by a supervisor.”
They claimed that employees were afraid to ask questions or bring up concerns as a result, with one interviewee describing Faber as a “tyrant.”
The report alleges that Faber walked into an interview room marked with a “do not disturb sign” twice while investigators were interviewing employees, which the investigators concluded was an alleged attempt to obstruct their work and an attempt to intimidate the employees.
The investigators also concluded that Faber’s alleged treatment of Battaglia at the Sept. 11 meeting was an attempt to intimidate him.
The News attempted to contact some of the employees named in the report; none wished to speak on-the-record due to fear of reprisal or ostracization.
The case has not yet gone to trial.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org