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VIHA fired gossiper but kept guard who had sex with patient

A hospital security guard who had sex with a psychiatric patient still works for the Vancouver Island Health Authority. So does an officer who was caught on video tape viewing pornography on a hospital computer while on the job.

But Suzana Kalyn, accused of gossiping about officers looking at pornography on work time and of breaching confidentiality, was fired.

“I find that male Officers who engaged in serious inappropriate workplace conduct were treated with fairness and in some instances leniency,” wrote B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Marlene Tyshynski in a 118-page ruling. “Ms. Kalyn, who was alleged to have gossiped and breached a questionably interpreted internal 'confidentiality clause', was not.”

Tyshynski ruled that Kalyn should get her job back, have her costs covered, receive payment for lost wages with interest and get $20,000 for damages.

The decision, released October 9, goes through Kalyn's work history with VIHA in detail. It also describes, for comparison, the disciplinary proceedings against six male officers.

Officer 1: “The [2001] incident involved . . . having sexual relations with a psychiatric patient at a VIHA psychiatric hospital.” The officer got a disciplinary letter on his file, which was removed after 18 months, as well as an “opportunity for rehabilitation”.

The officer had previously had a relationship with the patient, according to the testimony of one VIHA employee, but VIHA's human rights specialist, Marilyn Bowker, “admitted she was concerned about whether the patient had the capacity to consent to sexual relations.”

The officer remains with VIHA and is a team leader, said Tyshynski's ruling.

Officer 2: A manager, he resigned in 2004 after “a host of sexual harassment complaints . . . raised by a junior female officer commencing in 1999” and allegations in early 2004 that he made “inappropriate sexual comments and actions” to another junior female officer. He continued, through his own company, to provide service to VIHA after he resigned.

Officer 3: In 2004, according to testimony included in Tyshynski's report, the officer struck a patient, causing a bloody nose. VIHA managers worried the agency would be sued. The officer was given the choice of resigning or being fired. He chose to resign.

Officer 4: Within one week the officer was cited for “use of excessive force” with patients in two separate incidents, at least one of which had been caught on video and seen by witnesses. Managers worried VIHA would be sued. He chose to resign rather than be fired.

Officers 5 and 6: Both officers were disciplined for viewing pornography on a computer at Victoria General Hospital while working. Officer 5 “participated minimally” while officer 6 was the “principal instigator” and was guilty of “substantial theft of company time.” Officer 5 was suspended and given a warning letter. He still works for VIHA. Officer 6 chose to resign instead of being fired.

“The evidence before me supports the conclusion that all the male Officers in the Matrix were provided with due process concerning the investigation of their transgressions whereas Ms. Kalyn was not,” wrote Tyshynski.

“In response to the question of whether the severity of VIHA’s disciplinary response is proportionate to the severity of the transgression, I find that Ms. Kalyn was treated with disproportionate severity,” she wrote. Kalyn's offenses were comparatively minor, she said. “Ms. Kalyn was disciplined as harshly or more harshly than the most egregious offender. She, alone, was not given the opportunity to resign, so that she didn’t feel 'pushed out'.”

Tyshynski concluded VIHA managers saw Kalyn as a trouble maker they wanted to get rid of because of her complaints about being discriminated against on the basis of her gender. Kalyn was, she found, in fact justifiably standing up for herself.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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