CHAUDHRI: Simone Biles no quitter — she’s a #metoo victim

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Simone Biles is no quitter; she’s a #metoo victim who was expected to perform at the highest level, on a global stage, as if nothing happened at all.

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Biles won 4 gold medals for Team USA and one bronze at the Rio Olympics in 2016. She is considered by many to be the greatest gymnast of all time.

Biles withdrew from several Olympic events earlier this week, citing mental health concerns, drawing the ire of many.

But let’s consider the context.

In January 2018, Biles confirmed she was also a #metoo victim — subjected to sexual abuse by a trusted physician employed by USA Gymnastics (USAG). In a 2018 tweet, she confirmed: “I too am one of the many survivors that was sexually abused by Larry Nassar.”

U.S. gymnast Simone Biles at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on July 22, 2021.
U.S. gymnast Simone Biles at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on July 22, 2021. Photo by Dylan Martinez /Reuters

Nassar was convicted of sexually assaulting over 150 victims, including other star U.S. Olympic gymnasts like Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas. A judge sentenced him to up to 175 years in prison.

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Despite her abuse, Biles confirmed in 2018 her commitment to train hard for the Tokyo Olympics. She noted, however, that she would relive the experience when she tweeted: “I will continually have to return to the same training facility where I was abused.”

Survivors, including Biles, have sued the USAG for damages. The civil case is ongoing. USAG has denied liability, placing a dark cloud above the Tokyo Olympics. The organization that governs her profession, continues to deny it owes Biles anything for the sexual abuse she suffered by the physician it employed.

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  2. Sunira Chaudhri is an employment and labour lawyer and partner at Levitt Sheikh Chaudhri Swann. She sheds light on some questions for employees during COVID-19.

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The fact is, #metoo is not over. These experiences continue to be denied and discredited, and the results are being laid to bare. Survivors continue to exist in workplaces and process those experiences with little support. Even the grittiest survivors, like Biles, cannot escape the claws of a #metoo experience.

If you are a #metoo survivor, subjected to assault or harassment in the workplace you are not time limited from claiming damages and can seek legal help now.

If you are an employer that has learned of #metoo allegations in your workplace, remember that accommodations may be required well after the issue is investigated in the workplace. Employers have a duty to inquire about accommodations that may be required due to disability, including those related to mental health.

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We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

On to our weekly questions:

Q. I was terminated last month after working for 30 years as an administrative assistant. I am 68 and I don’t think I will get another job. I have been offered about eight months (and change) and my boss says that is all I am entitled to. Is this right?

A. It sounds like your boss may think the ESA minimums are all you’re entitled to, but that could very well be wrong. Employees are only limited to ESA minimum statutory payments if they have explicitly agreed to that in an employment agreement. Speak to a lawyer now as your case may be worth more than double that, if not more.

Q. I have a few employees who have been recalled to work but say they are not comfortable yet to return to work because of COVID. Do I need to wait until they’re comfortable or can I just hire other people instead?

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A. As an employer you have a duty to explore why your employees are hesitant to return, as any reluctance may be tied to legitimate medical or other considerations that require accommodations. If the reluctance is based on preference alone (i.e. I would prefer not to come to work right now), then you should advise your employees that you need to fill the role and will hire externally. You may want to consider allowing your employees to return, when comfortable, if you have the capacity to do so. If not, seek out legal counsel to help navigate your legal obligations.

The content in this article is for general information only and is not legal advice.

Have a workplace issue? Maybe I can help! Email me at schaudhri@levittllp.com and your question may be featured in a future article.

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