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Political staffer fired by premier's office sues for wrongful dismissal

A 69-year-old woman who was fired by Premier Tim Houston's chief of staff last October is suing the premier's office for wrongful dismissal and accusing the office of targeting and defaming her. (Robert Guertin/CBC - image credit)
A 69-year-old woman who was fired by Premier Tim Houston's chief of staff last October is suing the premier's office for wrongful dismissal and accusing the office of targeting and defaming her. (Robert Guertin/CBC - image credit)

A 69-year-old woman who was fired by Premier Tim Houston's chief of staff last October over an antisemitic tweet posted on her personal X, formerly Twitter, account by someone else is suing the premier's office, claiming "her dismissal was harsh, high-handed and callous."

Nargis DeMolitor was hired in January 2022 to be special advisor to Jill Balser, the minister of labour, skills and immigration. Nicole LaFosse Parker dismissed her on Oct. 18, 2023.

Speaking to reporters at Province House in Halifax after the firing, Houston blamed the post on an "unauthorized access" to the account "made easier by the actions of a provincial employee who shared social media login information with an individual outside of government."

"This was also an obvious breach of trust," said the premier. " As a result of that breach of trust, that individual [DeMolitor] no longer works for the province."

"There is no place for hate in the PC Party or in Nova Scotia."

DeMolitor also ran as a PC candidate in Clayton Park West during the 2021 provincial election, but the seat went to the Liberal candidate.

Didn't write Tweet

In the statement of claim filed this week at Nova Scotia Supreme Court, DeMolitor noted the tweet, "Israel must stop being the Nazi's of 21st century. Killing innocent Palestinians for political gain is inhumane and dictatorial. Free Palestine Now…" was written and posted by Samual Shaji, described as "a respected member of the PC Party's diversity committee" and someone who "had connections to Premier Houston's inner circle."

DeMolitor claims she hired Shaji to manage her X account between January and March of 2023 but she changed the password in April, "after his service ended." The tweet, she claims, was a result of his hacking into the account.

The former staffer claims the premier's comments to reporters implied she "is a hateful, antisemitic individual."

"Premier Houston's comments, and other comments made by the defendants regarding Ms. DeMolitor and her termination, were widely reported in the media, damaging her personal and professional reputation as well as her re-employability," noted the court filing. "All of this was done in bad faith, and to target and defame Ms. DeMolitor."

Claims of harassment

As a result, according to the claim, DeMolitor has been harassed by phone calls from strangers and by people who have sought out her home, knocking on the door or ringing the doorbell.

"She is now reluctant to leave her own home," noted the claim.

The suit also accuses the premier's office of "hypocrisy" over its handling of a controversial tweet by another political staffer the night the PCs won a byelection in Preston last August. Mitch Maltby retweeted a post referring to a "Thousand year Houston Reich"  —  a Nazi-inspired slogan.

Maltby deleted the tweet and apologized. Houston accepted the apology and downplayed its significance.

"Obviously it was an exuberant staff member that was retweeting a number of things and retweeted something they shouldn't," said Houston. "It's not appropriate, and I understand he's apologized. I think somebody's made a mistake, you accept their apology and you move forward."

Seeking damages

In her suit DeMolitor noted, "The defendant accepted the staffers apology, despite the apology being for hateful antisemitic comments. However, the same treatment was not accorded to Ms. DeMolitor despite making no such comments.

"To make the point abundantly clear, a white man, who admitted to making antisemitic comments, was not fired, while Ms. DeMilitor, a Muslim woman-of-colour, who did not make any antisemitic comments, was terminated for cause."

The suit claims DeMilitor's treatment "demonstrates a gross violation of Nova Scotia Human Rights Act."

The former career civil servant is seeking damages of at least $276,791.67 as well as "special damages" and costs associated with the dismissal and court case.

A statement from Catherine Klimek, Houston's press secretary, states "The premier's office disputes the allegations made in the notice of action and will vigorously defend this matter through the courts."

None of the allegations contained in the statement of claim have been proven or tested in court.

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