Glenda Luymes, Vancouver, B.C. (Postmedia News) – Sexual comments, fat jokes and pranks involving toilet paper are the subject of a lawsuit filed Friday in B.C. Supreme Court by a female RCMP officer.
Const. Karen Katz blames harassment and abuse allegedly suffered throughout her career as a Mountie — first at Depot Division in Saskatchewan, then through postings in B.C. — for health problems which include chronic post-traumatic stress disorder and bulimia.
She is now on medical leave from her job in RCMP E Division’s protective services.
Katz’s statement of claim, which contains unproven allegations that have yet to be tested in court, is her second after a sexual harassment suit filed earlier this year. In it, she begins by describing her days in RCMP training in 1989.
“She was required by the officer in charge to go on what was known as fat parade each morning,” reads the lawsuit. “(She) had to appear in front of a number of male corporals and tell them how much she weighed.”
The lawsuit also describes Katz’s interactions in the depot lunch line, where she was allegedly yelled at for selecting a dessert.
“She was called fat in front of the entire cafeteria.”
In an interview Saturday with the Vancouver Province, Katz said she is a meticulous note-taker and has “boxes” of evidence to make her case.
“You know when you’re a target,” she said. Lack of support for a recent shoulder injury and pressure to return to a “toxic” work environment prompted her to file the lawsuit now.
“I’ve had it,” she said. “(The RCMP has) had enough chances to make it better.”
According to her lawsuit, Katz’s first posting was to Prince George, B.C., where her sports car allegedly was toilet-papered and the door handles covered in Vaseline.
Katz also claims her colleagues combined a photo of herself with an officer who had “a reputation with the ladies,” making it appear they were a couple. The photo was then posted in a Prince George newspaper with text announcing their wedding engagement.
The lawsuit says she was the butt of “short jokes”; she recounts being told: “Karen, you are just the right height to put a beer on your head and you can give me a blow job.”
In 1995, after realizing “she had to get out of the Prince George detachment,” she transferred to North Vancouver.
There, according to her lawsuit, the harassment continued.
Katz claims that, shortly after she began her new job, a co-worker posted a fake birth announcement on a bulletin board, saying she was the mother of “Schmemima Schmegma Sims, 6 lbs. 4 oz.”
She also claims she received the nickname “Lady Godiva” from an officer in charge, referring to her long blond hair.
The subject of Katz’s hair features numerous times in the lawsuit. Officers in Prince George allegedly asked if they could touch it, while in North Vancouver a female officer allegedly pulled out some strands while commenting that Katz’s bangs were “disgusting.”
“(Katz) has very long hair which she has carefully cultured over her entire life,” the court documents state. “She is very proud of her hair.”
As the only female in her unit in E-Division, Katz alleges she saw pornography displayed on computers and received comments about her breast implants.
She also alleges that an unfair memo generated during her time in North Vancouver followed her to her new job. The memo said she was “apparently infatuated with outlaw motorcycle gangs” and found “large bearded and scruffy Hells Angels-type men appealing.”
Katz claims the memo was part of a North Vancouver internal investigation into her close ties to biker gangs — allegations that were found to be unsubstantiated.
Katz is the author of four books on outlaw biker gangs. She also has a master’s degree in criminology and law and is pursuing a PhD in law.
Katz is seeking damages for past loss of opportunity and future income loss, plus aggravated and punitive damages for the PTSD and bulimia she claims are a result of the RCMP’s negligence and failure to provide a safe working environment. The lawsuit names both the attorney-general and the B.C. minister of justice as the government bodies responsible for the RCMP.
A statement emailed Saturday by B.C. RCMP Supt. Ray Bernoties said the force had not yet had the opportunity to review Katz’s allegations.
In another pending lawsuit, Katz is alleging sexual abuse by a fellow officer while posted in North Vancouver, claiming he rubbed his genitals against her knee.
Katz is not the first female RCMP officer to come forward with allegations of harassment.
Last year, Cpl. Cate Galliford, who was the RCMP’s spokeswoman on the Air India and Robert Pickton investigations, said she faced sexual harassment from senior officers over the course of her career.