Former Manitoba Liberal staffer loses human rights complaint over firing
By The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – The Manitoba Human Rights Commission has dismissed a complaint from a former political staffer who said she lost her job and was discriminated against because of mental illness.
A commission board says Elizabeth Gonsalves received severance pay and signed an agreement not to pursue the legislative assembly for anything further when she was let go last October.
The board says because of that agreement, it would be an abuse of process to pursue a human rights complaint.
Gonsalves was a caucus researcher for the Manitoba Liberal Party.
She says she was on medical leave for postpartum depression when she was fired by Dougald Lamont shortly after he became leader last fall.
Lamont’s office declined to comment Wednesday.
He said earlier this year that Gonsalves was not discriminated against, but was dismissed along with another staffer – as is often the case when parties change leaders.
He also said the party had Gonsalves’s best interest in mind, because legislature rules allow for larger severance payments when parties elect new leaders and change staff.
Her severance agreement “specifically indicates that in exchange for payment of monies by the (legislative) assembly, the complainant will release and discharge the assembly ‘from any and all claims whatsoever’ arising from the termination of her employment,” the commission’s investigation report says.
“It appears the release (is) valid, and it would be an abuse of process to investigate this complaint further.”
The report cites legal precedents in Ontario and Alberta that restrict human rights complaints following similar severance agreements.
Gonsalves said Wednesday she was disappointed by the outcome. She said she agreed last year to release the legislative assembly from any complaints because she believed her employer was the Manitoba Liberal Party, not the legislature.
“I feel very disheartened by the process and the outcome,” she wrote in a statement.
The commission board ruled that Gonsalves, a staffer when Jon Gerrard was leader, was an employee of the assembly and not of the party.