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Rick Westhead: Argos QB Kelly accused of harassment in wrongful dismissal lawsuit | TSN

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A former Toronto Argonauts strength and conditioning coach has filed a wrongful dismissal lawsuit against the Canadian Football League team and quarterback Chad Kelly, alleging the league’s highest-paid player and reigning Most Outstanding Player harassed her and that the team fired her after she rejected his advances.

The coach, who worked for the Argos from 2018 until January 2024, filed the lawsuit on Feb. 21 in Ontario Superior Court in Toronto. TSN does not publish the names of alleged victims of abuse and harassment without their permission.

She is suing the 29-year-old Kelly for $50,000 for alleged violations of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Argos for $85,714, claiming wrongful dismissal.

The coach alleges that the Argos condoned Kelly’s harassment and a toxic work environment and that the team breached the CFL violence against women policy by not submitting a critical incident report to the league’s head office.

“[The plaintiff] reported the harassment she was experiencing from Chad to her superiors,” the coach’s lawsuit says. “[The] Argonauts failed to address [her] legitimate concerns and then terminated her employment.”

The allegations against Kelly and the Argos have not been tested in court and neither Kelly nor the franchise have filed a response.

“The club is aware of a legal claim made by a former employee against the team and Mr. Kelly,” Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment spokesman Dave Haggith wrote TSN in a statement. “The organization will not comment on private personnel matters or ongoing litigation but is steadfast in its commitment to providing a safe and inclusive work environment.”

The plaintiff was hired by the Argos in May 2018 as assistant strength and conditioning coach, becoming the first woman to be hired in the role by the team. She was paid about $25,000 per year, plus benefits, and her responsibilities included supervising workouts, focusing on injury prevention, supporting rehabilitation, and analyzing performance data.

Kelly, who has also appeared on TSN as a college football analyst, signed a three-year contract extension with the Argos in August for a reported $1.865 million, making him the top-paid player in the CFL. A Buffalo native, he is the nephew of former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly.

The coach alleges in her lawsuit that throughout the 2022 and 2023 seasons, Kelly “repeatedly sought to initiate romantic connections… by asking [her] out on numerous occasions. Despite [her] polite refusals, Chad persisted in his advances, displaying a pattern of behaviour that raised concerns.”

She alleges that Kelly’s harassment escalated in November 2023.

“A member of the Argonauts informed [her] that on Nov. 5, 2023, while on the team bus, [Kelly] publicly accused [her] of engaging in romantic relations with another team member,” the lawsuit reads.

The coach says she then privately confronted Kelly on Nov. 6, 2023.

“Instead of addressing the concerns, Chad reacted with aggression, screaming, cursing, and waving his hands at [her],” the lawsuit says, adding that she asked Kelly not to contact her unless it was work-related.

An hour after their conversation, the coach ate breakfast with a group of at least eight others, including her supervisor, Usama Mujtaba, the lawsuit says, adding that when Kelly saw her, he yelled derogatory words across the room at her and stated he couldn’t wait until she was fired.

The coach wrote in her lawsuit that she then informed Mujtaba and Argos assistant general manager John Murphy about what had happened.

“Murphy responded by stating that [she] should not have spoken to [Kelly] and that she has now ‘opened a can of worms that didn’t need to be opened,’” the lawsuit says.

She said that while she was supposed to lead a team yoga class that afternoon, she was told that someone else would take over since Kelly would be attending. After she went to the weight room, Mujtaba approached her and told her to go home in case Kelly showed up, the lawsuit says.

“On Nov. 10, 2023, [the coach] learned that Chad had made a threatening remark, suggesting she was fortunate he hadn’t physically harmed her,” the lawsuit says.

“Despite [her] supervisor witnessing parts of the incident and [the coach] reporting the ongoing harassment, the Argonauts failed to take any action to address the situation, leaving [her] in a distressing and unsupported position within the team.”

The coach said she was informed that her contract would not be renewed on Jan. 29.

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