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Kelly denies harassment allegations in new court filing

Chad Kelly Chad Kelly - The Canadian Press

The Toronto Argonauts and quarterback Chad Kelly each filed statements of defence Monday related to civil suits brought by a former assistant strength and conditioning coach who has accused Kelly of sexual harassment and the Argos of wrongful dismissal.

The coach, who worked for the Argos from 2018 until January 2024, originally filed the wrongful dismissal lawsuit on Feb. 21, then filed an amended lawsuit on April 2 in Ontario Superior Court in Toronto. TSN does not publish the names of alleged victims of abuse and harassment without their permission.

The coach alleges in her lawsuit that 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 allegations against Kelly and the Argos have not been tested in court. The CFL has also opened an independent investigation into the allegations.

Kelly’s statement of defence states that he “denies that he ever made any romantic or sexual overtures at [the plaintiff] at any time.”

Kelly’s statement also refutes allegations contained in the amended filing by the plaintiff that Kelly invited her to a Buffalo Bills home game with some teammates in the fall of 2022 and wanted the group to stay at an Airbnb, an invitation which she said was retracted when she refused the overnight accommodation.

“He would have no reason to do so, given that he was no staying at the Airbnb given that he has a home in Buffalo,” Kelly’s statement says.

Kelly’s statement also says the quarterback was not involved, directly or indirectly, in the team’s decision to fire the former coach and maintains the suit was filed against him “purely to draw the attention of the media to what was an otherwise very routine termination situation.”

The former coach is suing the 29-year-old Kelly for $50,000 for alleged violations of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Argos and Kelly jointly for $85,714, claiming wrongful dismissal. She is also seeking $10,000 worth of punitive damages.

The coach also 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.

In the Argonauts statement of defence, the club insists that the plaintiff, who was not retained after the 2023 season, was on a fixed-term agreement and that it was under no obligation to continue her employment.

The club also maintains she was instructed late last fall that she would need to improve her skills to maintain her position the following season, and that her interactions with Kelly had nothing to do with her not being retained for the 2024 season.

“In or about November 20, 2023, [head strength and conditioning coach] Usama Mujtaba met with [the plaintiff] for an exit interview as part of [the Argonauts’] standard process for all team personnel. In that meeting [she] was advised that she needed to significantly improve her skills if she was going to be re-hired for the 2024 season.”

The statement says that Mujtaba met with the plaintiff on Jan 29 and provided the skillset that would be required and invited her to re-apply for the position in April.

“Kelly had no involvement in the decision to terminate the 2023 seasonal agreement nor did Kelly have any involvement in Mujtaba and the [Argonauts’] decision to change the role,” the Argos’ statement says. “The fact is [the plaintiff] was invited to apply for the new role for the 2024 season and has chosen to commence this action instead.”

The team’s statement of defence also states that the football club has “no knowledge of any behaviour of Kelly that engaged the CFL’s policy on gender-based violence or was in breach of the Ontario Human Rights Code.”

The Argonauts maintain they are aware of an incident that occurred on Nov. 6, 2023, where Kelly told the plaintiff she was not good at her job after encountering her having breakfast at the BMO Club located at BMO Field.

According to the team’s statement of defence, Mujtaba then met privately with the plaintiff and Argos consultant John Murphy.

“[The plaintiff] advised Mujtaba and Murphy that she had met with Kelly prior to breakfast and that it had not gone well. She did not provide any details or allege she was harassed by Kelly…”

The Argos statement says Murphy advised [the plaintiff] “she should not have met with Kelly if she had an issue with him and should have told Mujtaba or someone in management at the Argos if she was having an issue with another employee.”

With files from Rick Westhead