Photo credit:Vancouver Canucks on Twitter
Ex-Vancouver Canucks employee Rachel Doerrie alleges discrimination, wrongful dismissal
By Zach Laing1 year ago
Ex-Vancouver Canucks front office staffer Rachel Doerrie has alleged she was discriminated against by assistant GM Emilie Castonguay in an explosive discrimination complaint.
The discrimination, the complaint alleges, was based on “a flimsy pretext to orchestrate and mask the real reasons for Ms. Doerrie’s termination,” after alleging that Doerrie spoke to members of the media about an August 2022 promotion.
Castonguay is alleged to have inflicted “significant harms associated with [Doerrie’s] physical and mental disabilities,” which culminated in multiple cardiac episodes and panic and anxiety attacks at the organization’s 2022 training camp in Whistler. At one point, she allegedly told Doerrie “you’re not important enough to be cared about,” the complaint alleges.
The claims, which were filed with the British Columbia Human Right Tribunal last week, were released via Doerrie’s Twitter account Sunday night. The complaint names Castonguay and the Canucks’ organization as respondents. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
In statements, Castonguay and the Canucks refuted the allegations.
“These allegations by Ms. Doerrie are absolutely not true and her allegations of what I said to her are false and inaccurate,” Castonguay said in a statement released through the Canucks. “At no time was Ms. Doerrie treated differently due to gender, a mental disability or a physical condition.
“I take a lot of pride in my work with the Vancouver Canucks, being a good leader, a person of high moral character, and always respecting and putting my co-workers first.”
The Canucks, meanwhile, said the organization provided Doerrie with all the support systems needed.
“We strongly disagree with the allegations brought forth by Ms. Doerrie,” the club said in a statement. “Our organization provided Ms. Doerrie with all the necessary resources, support and opportunities to succeed in her role.
“We acted in good faith and abided by our contractual obligations, both during and after Ms. Doerrie’s employment with the organization.”
Both the Canucks and Castonguay declined further comment.
According to Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli, Doerrie is “declaration the conduct is discrimination, compensation for injury, lost wages and other expenses.”
Doerrie, 26, who was hired by the Canucks in January 2022 as an analyst, said in the complaint that when she was approached for the job, she disclosed mental and physical disabilities to the organization. Those include post-traumatic stress disorder with associated panic and anxiety attacks and depression, as well as a heart condition known as vasovagal syncope and a leaky heart valve — both of which require Doerrie to wear a heart monitor.
She told the organization that she was considering employment opportunities with multiple NHL teams and that “she did not wish to commence a new job with a team that would not be respectful, considerate, or accommodating of her health conditions.” In the interview process, President of Hockey Operations and then-Interim GM Jim Rutherford assured her the Canucks “would take all necessary steps to best ensure that she remained healthy and that her health conditions would be appropriately dealt with.” This information was later disseminated to her colleagues and supervisors to ensure awareness.
Prior to her hiring by the Canucks, Doerrie had worked as an analyst for the New Jersey Devils and more recently, as the Director of Analytics for York University’s men’s and women’s hockey teams.
Four days after Doerrie was hired, the club announced the hiring of Emilie Castonguay as one of the organization’s assistant general managers, of whom the complaint states Doerrie reported to. In turn, Castonguay reported to new general manager Patrik Allvin.
Eight months into her employment, Doerrie was promoted in August 2022 to the coaching staff in the role of an analyst and assistant to the video coach. Talks of the promotion began in May 2022, the complaint stated, and Castonguay gave Doerrie the new employment contract in late July 2022 “with a 24-hour deadline to accept the promotion, which did not give Ms. Doerrie enough time to review the new contract with independent legal counsel.”
“For reasons unknown to Ms. Doerrie, Ms. Castonguay did not seem pleased with Ms. Doerrie’s promotion. She did not congratulate Ms. Doerrie on her promotion and was ‘cold’ towards her from that point on,” the complaint alleged.
On Sept. 19, 2022, Vancouver Province reporter Patrick Johnston, a friend of Doerrie’s since her time working in sports commentary, texted her statements Boudreau made public at an assembled media event at a golf tournament. Boudreau said Doerrie had “a wealth of knowledge” and that “… she knows a lot for her young age.”
“OMG. So Kind,” Doerrie texted back. “Wanna include those quotes when you tweet or write about it hahah. Make me look like I’m not an idiot.”
“It was clear that Mr. Johnston was not seeking a story or quote from Ms. Doerrie, but was simply conveying compliments that she had received from Mr. Boudreau, as one would between friends,” the complaint stated.
Johnston’s story was later posted online and Doerrie shared it on her Instagram account, excited she received “received public recognition from Mr. Boudreau after all of the hard work she had put in.” The complaint said it was common practice for members of Canucks staff to repost published articles on their own social media accounts “without any adverse employment consequences.”
On Sept. 20, 2022, the complaint stated that Castonguay called Doerrie into her office expressing concern that the story was shared on social media and that she was speaking to the media. The complaint stated that Doerrie explained no information of her promotion, nor confidential information, was disclosed to any media members, Johnston included.
Castonguay allegedly responded to the explanation by saying “you’re not important enough to be cared about” and that “no one in the media is your friend.”
It’s also alleged that Castonguay told Doerrie: “I don’t know if you have what it takes to do the job, mentally.”
At the end of the conversation, Doerrie asked Castonguay on how she could improve, Castonguay “responded bluntly that this was an HR issue now,” the complaint stated.
It seemed to Doerrie that “Ms. Castonguay was using this as a pretext to undermine her position with the Canucks, and Ms. Doerrie suspected that Ms. Castonguay may be doing so for the purpose of eliminating her from the organization altogether,” the complaint stated, adding “this treatment came as a surprise, as Doerrie felt it was inconsistent with “how other male colleagues had been treated in the past.”
Ten days prior, assistant coach Mike Yeo made comments to the media “which clearly went beyond anything that Ms. Doerrie had said or done with respect to her promotion,” the complaint stated.
Overall, Doerrie felt “very upset” about what’s alleged was a “very personal and demeaning attack on her mental capabilities.”
A day after Castonguay and Doerrie met, the Canucks’ training camp began in Whistler which included the two as well as Allvin. While there, the complaint alleges Castonguay ignored Doerrie and stopped acknowledging her presence around other co-workers. It led to Doerrie “feeling isolated and alienated from the coaching staff, which was especially difficult for Ms. Doerrie as one of the few women on the staff, the only one with a publically disclosed disability and in light of her concerns arising from Ms. Castonguay’s comments that her job may be in jeopardy.”
As a result of the alleged treatment, Doerrie “suffered multiple cardiac episodes and anxiety attacks from September 21 to 25.” Doerrie was treated by the Canucks’ mental performance specialist, team physician and orthopedic surgeon in response, the complaint states.
On Sept. 27, Doerrie met with the Canucks’ HR department telling them Castonguay “crossed the line” with the comments she made, while the department responded by saying they had been told by Castonguay that Doerrie spoke to the media about her promotion, and that they would “look into Ms. Castonguay’s comments to Ms. Doerrie about this.” Hours later, Allvin terminated Doerrie’s employment based on the information Castonguay provided to him, the complaint states.
“It is clear, based on all of the circumstances of this case, that Ms. Doerrie’s sex and physical and mental disabilities played a role in the termination of her employment,” the complaint alleges. “It is concerning to Ms. Doerrie that with all of the recent reports about the significant psychological problems that athletes and others engaged in sports are dealing with, that Ms. Castonguay would make disparaging comments to her related to her mental disability, and that she would be terminated soon thereafter on the basis of a flimsy pretext.”
Doerrie’s lawyer, Peter Gall, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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