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Canadore College partner subject of sexual harassment claim in Superior Court lawsuit

Hard Hat Hunter, which has its head office based at Canadore College in North Bay, officially launched in 2015

A statement of claim alleging sexual harassment against a company with offices at Canadore College has been filed at the Superior Court of Justice in North Bay.

The claim alleges sexual harassment and wrongful termination of Logan Jones, an employee of Hard Hat Hunter.

It names that company, plus co-founder Paul Robillard and First North Enterprise, a First Nations owned and operated company that shares operations and employees with Hard Hat.

Robillard, according to court documents is an officer, director, vice-president and founder of Hard Hat Hunter and Operations Manager of First North. He lives in North Bay with his wife and family.

Hard Hat is a private for-profit corporation with close ties to Canadore which has undergone its own series of sexual harassment complaints over the past year.

The company, which has its head office based at Canadore College, officially launched in 2015. it receives "significant funding" according to documents, from the provincial and federal governments. 

Jones, a young woman and recent graduate of Canadore, is seeking $100,000 plus unspecified special damages to be worked out. 

She was referred to Hard Hat by Canadore, which has supplied other students for employment at Hard Hat Hunter through the Canadore College Centre for Career Development.

The statement of claim says Jones was hired in April of 2018 as a digital content coordinator and that the position was full-time and permanent.

Court documents say when Jones joined Hard Hat Hunter the company also employed two other young women from Canadore College as summer students. "Robillard paid particular and inappropriate attention to these students, and often made sexualized attention and energy," alleges the claim.

"When the students returned to class in September, Logan became the focus of Robillard's sexualized attention and energy.

"Over the following months, Robillard subjected Logan to an escalating pattern of sexualized behaviour. Robillard's conduct included making inappropriate and distinctly unwelcome inquiries about Logan's personal life, sharing unsolicited and intimate details about his own sex life, and showing or sending to her photographs of the various escorts and sex workers he purportedly employed. In addition, Robillard intentionally exposed Logan to lewd, sexual correspondence concerning his plans to party and procure young women for sex."

In December 2018, public documents show a co-worker alerted Hard Hat Hunter to Robillard's ongoing sexual harassment of Jones and the company retained a third party to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations.

None of the allegations in the statement of claim have been proven in court.

The investigator's report was submitted in January 2019, and court documents say it concluded that Jones had been the subject of workplace sexual harassment by Robillard and that he had been given a formal written reprimand by the related company First North, not Hard Hat Hunter.

On Jan. 23 2019 Jones was given her Record of Employment by Hard Hat Hunter, stating her last day was Jan. 18 and was being let go because of a "shortage of work/end of contract or season." First North contends it was they that issued the ROE.

In its Statement of Defence First North says Jones was working remotely from Gravenhurst and had not been completing assignments and had performed little work since relocating to Gravenhurst in early January.

"Accordingly the plaintiff had been receiving pay for 40 hours per week since early January 2019 but had not been performing her employment duties during this period."

Jones' Statement of Claim argues her employment agreement implied that "the defendants would provide her with a safe workplace, free from discrimination and harassment in compliance with Ontario Human Rights law and she would be treated with civility, decency and respect in all their dealings and would not be subject to abusive conduct.

"Robillard's lecherous behaviour towards Logan, which included exposing her to graphic sexual images and language in the workplace and attempting to facilitate sexual relationships between her and other men, was abusive and humiliating.

"Robillard's actions, for which Hard Hat Hunter/First North are vicariously liable, were flagrant and deliberate. He knew, ought to have known or recklessly disregarded the fact that his lewd and degrading conduct towards Logan would cause Logan mental and emotional distress. Logan has in fact suffered emotional distress and psychological damage as a result of Robillard's actions." 

In response, First North says "Upon being informed of the complaint, First North promptly arranged to have an independent investigator appointed to investigate her complaint. Robillard was suspended with pay pending the outcome of the investigation."

First North states that "the disciplinary action it took against Robillard was an appropriate and proportionate response to the misconduct in which Robillard engaged. Given Robillard's ownership position within First North, it was not considered a proportionate response to remove Robillard from the workplace."

First North also contends that the sexual images of Robillard were private.

"While Robillard acknowledges the findings of the investigation report and that he was disciplined for misconduct relating to the sending of texts and explicit images to the plaintiff, he states that many of the messages and images presented to the investigator by the plaintiff during the investigation had been obtained by the plaintiff from Robillard's private communications with a third party, without his permission or authorization. Robillard does not dispute the legitimacy of the discipline imposed upon him by First North and states that he has learned about appropriate interaction with employees through this incident. Robillard did not participate in the decision to terminate the plaintiff's employment.

"In addition to the disciplinary action taken by First North against Robillard, both First North and Hard Hat hunter reviewed their policies and retained the services of a consultant to prepare a comprehensive policy and procedures manual, including progressive and appropriate harassment and discrimination policies and procedures. In addition, First North directed Robillard to take appropriate Human Rights training, which Robillard has completed."

Neither Robillard nor Hard Hat Hunter has yet submitted their own statement of defence.

Hard Hat Hunter has had a close relationship with Canadore, which has its own sexual harassment problems.

See: Local social network site for the trades continues to expand

And: North Bay made social network for trades gaining steam around the world

Robillard said in an earlier interview that the partnership with Canadore College has been key since they have been able to work together with some of the courses.

“What we are doing is we are working together with Canadore College to develop courses. It is getting the right courses to train people which we are a part of that in our daily work with Canadore.”

BayToday reached out to Canadore President George Burton for comment, but that call has not been returned. Canadore Board Chair Bob Nicholls says he is not aware of the lawsuit.

Paul Robillard did return our call to say his lawyer would issue a statement on his behalf.

Lawyer Geoff Jeffrey told BayToday that "After having spoken to Miss Jones' lawyer this morning the parties are in the process of trying to come to, without prejudice, a resolution of this case." 

See: Lawyer responds to Hard Hat Hunter sexual abuse lawsuit

The investigation into the senior leader at Canadore continues

See: Canadore women demand college VP be put on paid leave

See: Canadore College notified of serious allegations of sex discrimination

And: Survey says: Canadore has second highest rate of reported sexual harassment of Ontario colleges

Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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