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City staffer alleges harassment against Coquitlam RCMP

A civilian staff member with the Coquitlam RCMP has filed a statement of claim alleging that she was harassed in the work place.  - TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO
A civilian staff member with the Coquitlam RCMP has filed a statement of claim alleging that she was harassed in the work place.
— image credit: TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO

A former civilian staff member with the Coquitlam RCMP has filed a notice of civil claim alleging she was harassed by her superiors.

Sherri Merritt, a 45-year-old insurance disclosure clerk employed by the city, alleges that she was harassed "in an ongoing and vengeful manner, which isolated her within her workplace."

(Information contained in a notice of civil claim has not be proven in a court of law.)

According to the notice of civil claim, Merritt had concerns about the detachment's Analyst Review Section. She stated that mistakes made by members in the section could have endangered children, put public safety at risk and violated the Privacy Act.

The claim states harassment began after she was asked to correct some of the issues she observed, a request that several members of the program took as a threat to their positions, she alleges. When she complained about her treatment to superiors, she said her grievances were not taken seriously.

"The RCMP has a paramilitary culture, which does not address complaints of harassment very well," Tom Beasley, an employment litigation lawyer who is representing Merritt, told The Tri-City News.

He points out that the plaintiff is not a member of the RCMP and does not have access to its internal adjudication system. Even if she did, Beasley said the process is long and convoluted.

Issues first arose when Merritt was required to undergo treatment for cancer, forcing her to take a medical leave last fall. On her last day at work before the leave, she deleted several documents on her computer, files Beasley said were templates and spreadsheets. No information was lost, according to the statement of civil claim, and all protocols were followed.

But less than a month later, police launched a criminal investigation against Merritt, alleging she intentionally tried to disrupt and control her office while on leave. Her security clearance was suspended and she could not return to work at the Coquitlam RCMP detachment.

She was never charged criminally but, according to the court document, the Crown sent her a letter stating it would keep a note on file about the incident should prosecutors choose to pursue the matter in the future. The notice of civil claim states that the defendants used the criminal investigation to intimidate the plaintiff and threaten her livelihood.

Merritt, who successfully underwent in-vitro fertilization several months ago and is expecting a baby at the end of August, said her doctor is concerned the stress caused by her employment issues is putting her baby at risk.

The defendants listed in the notice of civil claim include the city of Coquitlam, Coquitlam RCMP Supt. Claude Wilcott, Ridge Meadows RCMP Sgt. Jennifer Hyland and Susan McCallum, a Crown lawyer in Port Coquitlam as well as the Attorney General of Canada, the Minister of Justice of the Province of British Columbia.

She is seeking general damages, special damages, loss of future earning capacity and the reinstatement of her security clearance and her employment at the RCMP.

Cpl. Jamie Chung, spokesperson for the Coquitlam RCMP, said members from the detachment would not comment on the notice of civil claim because it was before the courts.

Dan Nicholson, the communications manager with the city of Coquitlam, also said the city would not be commenting on the matter.

Information contained in a notice of civil claim has not be proven in a court of law. The defendants have 21 days from the time the document was filed to respond.

gmckenna@tricitynews.com

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