Lawyer Arman Chak sues Alberta Human Rights Commission

An Edmonton lawyer has filed a $3.35-million lawsuit against the Alberta Human Rights Commission and its director, alleging wrongful dismissal and defamation.

In a statement of claim filed Jan. 29, Arman Chak alleges the commission terminated his employment suddenly and without cause, despite his receiving the “highest level of performance reviews” throughout his 11-and-a-half-year career with the organization.

‘It is a very odd thing to do to someone who has had that level of commitment to the organization, to treat them in a way that no one should be treated.’– Arman Chak

In an exclusive interview with CBC News, Chak said he had no idea he would be fired when he was called into a meeting on Nov. 3, 2014.

“Once I got into the room, I was given a piece of paper indicating that I was being terminated without cause – so, without a reason – and I was asked to leave the building,” he said.

According to the lawsuit, the commission has refused to say why it fired Chak. It also inexplicably refused to return his personal belongings, including photos of his family.

“I got most of [the photos] back,” Chak said in an interview. “Some of them, they still have yet to get back to me about.”

Chak is also seeking a judicial order to overturn his dismissal.

In the application, Chak said he was fired by Don Smallwood, the commission’s director, even though Smallwood was not his boss and had no legal authority to do so.

The lawsuit said Justice Minister Jonathan Denis was not informed of Chak’s termination.

Audrey Dean, the commission’s senior legal counsel, was Chak’s boss. She provided an affidavit that said Chak, who she hired in 2003, had “excellent” performance appraisals and, “there is no rational reason for [his] termination.”

In her affidavit, Dean said she was on emergency medical leave and “just out of hospital” when she heard Chak had been fired.

“I want the court and the legal community to know that I had nothing to do with this unfair and irrational termination of employment,” Dean stated.

Chak further alleges in the lawsuit the commission has denied him employment benefits and severance pay.

In an interview, Chak said he has no idea why he was fired or why the commission would treat him as it did.

“It is a very odd thing to do to someone who has had that level of commitment to the organization, to treat them in a way that no one should be treated,” Chak said. “No Albertan should accept that type of treatment from any employer.”

In his statement of claim, Chak alleges the commission defamed him by making deliberately misleading statements about his termination.

“All public statements made about [Chak] state that he is, ‘no longer employed with the Alberta Human Rights Commission’ or that ‘he has left the Alberta Human Rights Commission,’ the lawsuit states.

“The language is understood to mean that the termination of employment was due to some negative conduct on the part of the Plaintiff.”

The provincial government and two unidentified commission or government employees are also named as defendants in the lawsuit.

No statement of defence has been filed. None of the allegations in Chak’s statement of claim or judicial application has been proven in court.

The commission declined comment because it is a personnel matter, which is now before the courts.

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