Employment Law

Lindsay Shepherd $3.6M Lawsuit is “Utter Nonsense”

Lindsay Shepherd Lawsuit

University teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd, who gained prominence after being disciplined for showing students a TV clip of controversial professor Jordan Peterson discussing gender-neutral pronouns, is suing Wilfrid Laurier University for $3.6 million.

Shepherd says, via a statement of claim filed this week, Wilfrid Laurier University behaved negligently, leaving her unemployable in academia.

The lawsuit names the school in Waterloo, Ont., two professors, and a manager of the university’s diversity and equity office. The amount of various damages totals $3.6 million.

Lindsay Shepherd’s lawsuit alleges that Laurier failed to follow its own internal policies, and that attacks on her by “predators” translated to harassment, intentional infliction of nervous shock, and constructive dismissal.

Lindsay Shepherd Lawsuit is “Utter Nonsense”

In an interview with Global News Radio 640 Toronto, Canadian employment lawyer Lior Samfiru questioned the validity of the lawsuit.

“A $3.6 million dollar lawsuit is frankly utter nonsense in Canada,” he told host Kelly Cutrara, “as the law does not provide for that level of compensation for what happened here.”

“For Lindsay Shepherd to be successful on punitive damages, for things like nervous shock or mental distress, she would have to show that Wilfrid Laurier University or its professors deliberately set out to harm her, as opposed to simply being negligent in their handling of the situation,” explained Samfiru.

The conduct that Laurier engaged in was wrong and inappropriate, noted Samfiru, but “nowhere near what the lawsuit alleges.”

Leverage for a “Generous Resolution”

While Lindsay Shepherd may ultimately be unsuccessful in her pursuit of damages included in the lawsuit, Samfiru did note that scenario will likely end in the academic’s favour.

“This is a situation where it is an embarrassing experience for Laurier, meaning she may have some leverage in terms of negotiating a generous resolution outside of a courtroom,” he told Global News Radio 640 Toronto, “as Laurier will likely want to avoid a public relations nightmare if this situation escalates.”

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Lindsay Shepherd: A Case for Constructive Dismissal

Samfiru explained that another legal option is available to Shepherd.

“To the extent that she can show that she was improperly disciplined and targeted, that may be a constructive dismissal, where she can leave of her own volition with severance pay.”

“Severance pay for her is not going to be much, due to many factors,” he said. Those factors include length of service and age.

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Our Pocket Employment Lawyer can give you a better understanding as to whether or not you have been constructively dismissed, based on changes that have or will take effect.

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Lessons for Laurier – and Employers

Samfiru reiterated that the Ontario university completely mishandled the matter concerning Shepherd’s classroom conduct.

“Employers, including universities, must be respectful of everybody’s opinions, and avoid prejudging individuals. They must also be honest when they approach their employees, and avoid fabricating allegations. These are aspects that shouldn’t be that complicated, but Laurier got it completely wrong.”

As for the lasting impact of Lindsay Shepherd’s $3.6 million lawsuit, Lior told Cutrara that “[Laurier] will likely be much more careful in the future when dealing with controversial topics and those people who raise them, and will create more specific policies that better handle those scenarios – and that’s a good thing.”

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