Calgary social services agency fires employee for refusing to work alone with high-risk clients
CALGARY – Trinity Place Foundation has fired a 33-year-old female employee after she told her employer she wasn’t comfortable working alone with 30 high-risk clients. The foundation primarily serves Calgary seniors with housing needs, but also works with Alberta Health Services to provide housing and social services to vulnerable populations including clients with severe mental health issues.
In August, a client at Parkview Village claimed to have been sexually assaulted by another client. At that point, employee Kim Sinnett asked Trinity Place to fill a vacancy at the site. Sinnett worked with 30 high risk clients and 100 other residents and was the only staff person on site while the other position remained vacant.
Sinnett was concerned that all clients had access to her in her office (with no emergency exit), no access to a cell phone when working out of her office, and no emergency or safety plan. After multiple attempts to get Trinity Place to address the safety issues and fill the vacant position, Sinnett contacted the union (CUPE) and asked for help. Sinnett and a CUPE representative met with her manager on December 1st to address the safety issues and ask for a safety plan. Two working days later, Sinnett was given a dismissal letter for ‘falsifying her social work credentials’ in her application for employment.
Sinnett, who has a degree in Community Rehabilitation and a Disability Studies diploma, never claimed to be a social worker, did not provide a social worker license number, and correctly listed her educational credentials on her application.
Being dismissed without cause just before Christmas means Sinnett will receive no severance and is not eligible for Employment Insurance.
“I’m heartbroken,” said Sinnett. “I love my work, I want to keep doing it. I am worried about the clients I worked with. I shouldn’t be fired for wanting a safe workplace.” CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill said agencies like Trinity Place should treat their workers better.
“Everyone has the right to be safe in their worksite,” said Gill. “One person with 30 high risk clients isn’t a safe situation.”
“Trinity Place’s trumped-up excuses for firing this employee are nonsense. They need to do the right thing and give her back her job.”
CUPE will be filing an occupational health and safety complaint and is considering a further complaint to the Alberta Labour Relations Board for anti-union activity.