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Arbitrator to decide soon in case of rail conductor fired for social media posts

Stephanie Katelnikoff poses in this undated handout photo. An arbitrator is to decide soon whether a Canadian Pacific train conductor who was fired two years ago over social media posts should get her job back.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Shamas Malik Photography,
November 29, 2019 - 7:00 PM

CALGARY - A train conductor who was fired from Canadian Pacific Railway two years ago over social media posts says she expects to find out soon whether she'll get her job back.

Stephanie Katelnikoff, 30, said Friday she's expecting an arbitration decision in the next two weeks, but declined to comment further.

CP has said it dismissed Katelnikoff in November 2017 because of disparaging remarks she made online about the company and over photographs she posted of herself in unsafe situations, including modelling pictures on railway property.

The union representing Katelnikoff argued in its submissions, which were obtained by The Canadian Press, that the company's investigation was not fair.

"The union contends that the discipline assessed to Ms. Katelnikoff is unjustified, unwarranted and excessive in all of the circumstances, including mitigating factors evident in this matter," a union lawyer wrote.

"The union requests that the discipline be removed in its entirety and that Ms. Katelnikoff be made whole for all associated losses."

It said Katelnikoff's attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which can be linked to impulse control, should have been taken into account. The union said the condition is being managed with medication and therapy.

The company's submissions, also obtained by The Canadian Press, said the union failed to "establish any link between the grievor's alleged medical condition and her misconduct."

It said Katelnikoff's behaviour could have caused substantial harm to the rail company's interests and reputation.

"Not only did her behaviour create a material risk that members of the public would associate her lackadaisical attitude towards railway safety with the company, her disparaging comments about the company and its policies undermined the company's ability to effectively manage its operations and direct its workforce."

The company document indicated that Katelnikoff couldn't remember when the railroad photos were taken, but that she believed she was not working for CP at the time.

It cites a 2016 Facebook post that calls the railway's code of ethics a "short fictional comedy" and a profile description that says "Resume: Google Banff train crash," followed by a laughing emoji. Katelnikoff was involved in a derailment in Banff National Park nearly five years ago.

In addition to the railroad photos, Canadian Pacific seemed to take issue with racy pictures posted to the same Instagram account as another 2017 selfie of her in a work vest.

"The CP Rail logo was visible in the photo, which appeared in the grievor's Instagram page alongside nude, partially nude and sexually explicit photos of the grievor."

The document said Katelnikoff offered to post an apology letter for online remarks, but the company said it doubted her remorse was sincere.

Katelnikoff's dismissal in November 2017 was the second time she was let go from the railway.

On Boxing Day in 2014, a train Katelnikoff was conducting derailed, sending 15 cars off the tracks in Banff, Alta.

The Transportation Safety Board determined that a broken piece of track caused the crash.

She was fired a month later. The company said it was because she violated rules on injury reporting and protecting an accident scene.

In February 2016, an arbitrator found in Katelnikoff's favour, saying the grounds for termination were discriminatory and in bad faith.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 29, 2019.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

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