Former Kamloops cafe owner loses appeal for compensation following false sex harassment case | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Former Kamloops cafe owner loses appeal for compensation following false sex harassment case

The former PDK Cafe.
Image Credit: INSTAGRAM:PDK Cafe
December 15, 2020 - 7:00 AM

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has quashed an appeal from a former Kamloops cafe owner who argued she should receive financial compensation from the barista who publicly made false claims about sexual harassment which ultimately led to the cafe's bankruptcy.

In the Dec. 10 B.C. Human Rights Tribunal decision, former cafe owner Kim Cecile argued the Tribunal should reconsider an earlier ruling dismissing her claim for damages after she won the case against her former employee Jordynn Denness.

Denness, a former barista at the PDK Cafe Cecile had owned, filed a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal complaint accusing a co-worker of sexual harassment and her former employer of failing to take the complaint seriously. She alleged Cecile knew the co-worker had previously sexually harassed others but did nothing about it and, therefore, put her in danger.

However, in October Denness lost the case after admitting to making several falsehoods and overstatements.

READ MORE: Kamloops barista loses sexual harassment claim, admits circulating falsehoods

These falsehoods were inflamed long before the Tribunal was involved because Denness took to social media and publicly named those involved and linked to an anonymous letter published by Kamloops This Week under the hashtag #METOO.

In turn, Cecile alleged that Denness's "false" and "frivolous" claims had caused her cafe to go bankrupt and "ruined lives” and while she won the case and the Tribunal found she had fulfilled her obligations to her staff, she wasn't successful in her claims for compensation.

The decision leaves the former business owner without a cafe to run, or any financial compensation from the person she claims was ultimately responsible for the business's demise.

In the earlier case, the Human Rights Tribunal had said awarding damages against a complainant alleging sexual harassment could discourage people from filing sexual harassment complaints in the future if they knew they'd be on the hook financially if they lost.

In the appeal, Cecile argues the Tribunal failed to address several breaches of the Tribunal’s rules and procedures. She argued those involved in Tribunal hearings have an obligation to present themselves with "honesty and integrity" and it is in the "interests of fairness and justice" that the Tribunal reconsider its decision not to award costs.

However, Tribunal member Beverly Froese dismissed the claim saying if Cecile is "dissatisfied" with the ruling she can proceed with a judicial review. If Cecile were to proceed with a judicial review, it would no doubt be costly as lawyers would need to take to the case to the B.C. Supreme Court.

The case goes back to October 2017 when Denness, at the time a 20-year-old nursing student, worked at the PDK Cafe that Cecile owned.

Denness claimed co-worker Dima Kondratenko sexually harassed her and made offensive and derogatory comments about her sexuality, along with making violent and threatening comments about LGBTQ people. She then accused the cafe of failing to take the complaints seriously and brushing it under the carpet.

She also went to the RCMP with her complaint and filed a bullying and harassment claim with WorkSafe B.C. which was later dismissed.

But during the hearing under cross-examination, Denness admitted to coming to several “assumptions” that the evidence showed weren’t true. The Tribunal sided with Kondratenko finding him a credible witness and saying Denness’s allegations against him changed in different versions.

Kim Cecile was not immediately available for comment.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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