VANCOUVER – The former president of the B.C. Nurses’ Union is suing to get her job back after she says she was fired amid false allegations of bullying.
Gayle Duteil’s statement of claim filed Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court says she had surgery for breast cancer in May 2017 and weeks later the union’s board passed a vote of no confidence in her leadership.
The document says the motion was approved over concerns that Duteil was using alcohol and prescription medication that affected her ability to be president, and there were allegations she verbally abused staff and council members.
The lawsuit says the union launched a confidential investigation into Duteil’s actions, but investigators informed her last April that the allegations were largely unsubstantiated.
Duteil denies the allegations and is seeking damages, as well as reinstatement to the presidency and as a member of the union.
Union CEO Umar Sheikh says it hasn’t been served with the lawsuit, but Duteil was invited to go through the union’s appeal process.
“This is not conducive to actually getting her matter heard through the internal process, nor is it conducive to resolving issues,” he said in an interview.
None of the allegations in the lawsuit have been tested in court.
Sheikh said over the last year, an investigation was conducted and a report to the union’s 25-member board determined Duteil was not a member in good standing, which resulted in her losing the presidency.
Duteil was first elected as president in 2014 and re-elected in May 2017 before she took a brief leave for surgery, she says in a news release.
Instead of returning to work, Duteil says she was placed on administrate leave, pending the outcome of an investigation.
She alleges the union has breached its constitution and bylaws.
“Ultimately, the nurses of B.C. need answers, and it’s my hope this legal action will result in greater transparency and accountability,” she says.