Nurse sues GN, alleging harassment and wrongful termination
William Sibold says bullying began after he stood up for colleague; GN denies allegations
A former Resolute Bay nurse is suing the Government of Nunavut, alleging he was bullied by management to the point of having a mental health crisis, then wrongfully terminated as he tried to recover.
William Sibold, 35, filed a lawsuit with the Nunavut Court of Justice on April 25. His suit names the GN, the deputy minister of health, and Jennifer Berry, assistant deputy minister of health, as defendants.
None of Sibold’s allegations have yet been tested in court.
According to his statement of claim, Sibold, a registered nurse, was hired as a supervisor for health programs at Resolute Bay’s health centre in February 2022. The first 12 months of his tenure were under probation.
He said the first few months of his employment went well, but everything changed May 21, 2022, after he filed a harassment complaint on behalf of a colleague.
Micromanagement from Pangnirtung
Sibold said his managers, who were based in Pangnirtung, suddenly started micromanaging his work. They required pre-approval for overtime but were not consistent or fair in handling those requests.
He said they called the health centre at the start of his shifts to check up on him. At one point, they asked for an audit of the narcotics in his health centre’s pharmacy.
Sibold’s employment agreement required everybody to be adaptable and exercise discretion, according to the statement of claim. Sibold also says his employment agreement included regular performance reviews, which he never received.
By June, Sibold went on stress leave for about a month. He also filed a harassment complaint and reached out to Berry, the assistant deputy minister of health, hoping she would intervene.
“She was never about helping me,” Sibold said, adding he and his lawyers filed requests under access to information legislation for Berry’s email correspondence regarding him.
“The ATIP documents show she was talking to directors about what they need to do, what they need to document, to avoid any claim or criticism from me.”
A threat with a knife
The incident that led to Sibold’s termination later that summer involved a patient and that patient’s common-law partner.
In July, Sibold had agreed to provide medical care to a friend experiencing withdrawal symptoms from an opioid addiction until he could train another nurse to take on the file. It was a difficult case, Sibold said, because the patient’s spouse believed Sibold was romantically interested in the patient.
Sibold said he was trying to extricate himself from the situation in early August when he learned the man had stopped the addiction treatment that had been prescribed. Believing this was a safety issue, Sibold decided to intervene.
When he did, the man’s partner held a knife to Sibold’s throat.
“That was the incident where I was like, ‘I’m done,’” said Sibold in an interview with Nunatsiaq News.
“I can’t sleep, I’m anxious, I’m throwing up, this is a disaster.”
Sibold took a stress leave in mid-August. Before he left, he arranged for a social worker and police to check in on the patient and his spouse, because the pair had an infant and Sibold was concerned for their safety.
“I knew that this couple would be very angry that I reported,” Sibold said.
“When social workers and police went to them, [the woman] made allegations against me and so did he. They were not good things. They were serious allegations.”
He said the pair alleged Sibold prescribed drugs he was not allowed to prescribe, which made his patient “completely out of it.”
The woman also alleged Sibold was trying to steal her partner, and that he threatened to lock her up in a psychiatric institute. Later, she told police Sibold was part of a Russian mob.
‘Their actions made me sick’
When he arrived in Iqaluit on Aug. 15, Sibold spent about three days in hospital recovering from acute stress. In the meantime, the RCMP and the Registered Nurses Association of Northwest Territories and Nunavut opened an investigation into the complaint.
On Aug. 21, the Department of Health cancelled Sibold’s return to work and called him in to respond to the allegations made against him.
Sibold wrote back, expressing concern about the fact his dog and prescription medications were still in Resolute Bay.
“I didn’t get a reply, but I did get an email later — an auto-generated email that goes out when someone puts in an IT ticket, that says, ‘This employee will be terminated on this date at this time, please deactivate at this hour,” Sibold said.
“I forwarded it to HR and said, ‘OK, you’ve just confirmed what I suspected, that you made a decision without talking to me.’”
Sibold sat down with his bosses to respond to the allegations and received an official termination letter on Aug. 26.
Sibold’s medical team had come up with a long-term care plan to deal with the stress and anxiety issues he had developed during his time in Resolute Bay.
Now that he was terminated, Sibold said, he lost access to his insured medical care and ended up paying out of pocket.
“Their actions made me sick,” he said. “I have a diagnosis of PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. It’s been a very rough time.”
GN intends to fight lawsuit in court
RCMP have now closed their investigation into Sibold without laying charges, and Sibold said he is in talks with the nurses association to conclude that file.
Sibold, who now lives in Calgary, is seeking approximately $500,000 from the GN, which includes damages for what he says was a negligent investigation and wrongful termination, bad-faith conduct and lost benefits.
He says he wants to tell his story because he doesn’t believe he’s alone in what he experienced during his time working as a nurse in Nunavut.
“I believe [this] happens a lot more than we know,” Sibold said.
“It’s just like we’ve got a bunch of white people fighting with white people in management and money spent on a lawsuit that could have been spent way better otherwise.”
Health Minister John Main and Berry declined interview requests from Nunatsiaq News. Instead, they released a statement.
“The Government of Nunavut denies the allegations laid out in the statement of claim and will be defending this matter in court,” it states.