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In the Courts: Skeena Resources denies former VP’s toxic workplace allegations

B.C. miner claims Kelly Earle made up and spread allegations about colleagues she didn’t like
The B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver

A B.C. mining company says a former executive made false allegations against her colleagues simply because she didn’t like them.

Skeena Resources Ltd.’s (TSX:SKE) claims come in a response to a wrongful dismissal lawsuit filed last month by its former senior vice-president of corporate development. Kelly Earle alleged the company allowed a toxic work environment to fester for women in the workplace, and that she was fired for raising concerns about it and for going on medical leave.

But Skeena Resources is pushing back, saying in a brief emailed statement that it has filed a response to Earle’s claims, which it described as “baseless in the company’s view and will fight vigorously in order to protect the integrity of our business and reputation.”

Skeena claimed in court filings Earle’s “real issue was [her] dislike of the individuals involved, particularly Mr. [Keith] Peck, and her desire to not work with them and/or to have them not work for Skeena as a result.”

Earle alleged Peck, an adviser to the company, was described as “too important to let go” after she and other women made complaints about inappropriate comments. She claimed he had been disciplined once for his actions, but he his behaviour was allowed to continue.

Skeena denies Peck was ever disciplined or that any formal complaints had ever been brought forward.

“Over the years, Mr. Peck (father of two adult daughters in their 30s) was frequently observed by witnesses providing the plaintiff with valuable career advice and encouraging her advancement within Skeena,” the company said in court filings.

Skeena similarly claimed executive chairman Walter Coles acted as a mentor for Earle and that he changed her title from vice-president of communications to senior vice-president of corporate development after she complained that the previous title was demeaning.

When Earle raised concerns about Peck, Skeena Resources said witnesses in an informal investigation didn’t support her claims.

“When the plaintiff did not like someone, she would actively campaign against them. As it relates to employees and [advisers] of the defendant, this included making negative/disparaging comments in public about them, making up and spreading false accusations about them, and deliberately withholding information from them,” Skeena wrote in its court filings, calling Earle “far from the victim in this matter.”

The company said that in her final few months of employment, Earle was “openly demeaning and made derogatory comments to both subordinates and superiors, and was passive aggressive in her dealings, causing at least one employee to leave Skeena and another to almost leave.”

Skeena claimed Earle increasingly stepped back from her duties, forcing others to step in for her, and that her leaves of absence were due to spousal issues and an injured back. But the company claimed it later came across images of her dancing on tables while on leave.

Earle has not responded to the company’s allegations in court.

Peck did not respond to an inquiry made through a third party representing Skeena Resources.