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This article was published 7/11/2019 (317 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Winnipeg Folk Festival has agreed to pay a breast cancer survivor $110,000 in lost wages and $20,000 in damages by not letting her return to work after her health battle.
The $20,000 in general damages is the highest ever seen in a Manitoba human-rights case.
But Margaret Koshinsky, the festival's former marketing and communications manager, who filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission over her firing, is still not happy with how the festival treated her.
"Make no mistake — they are keeping five days of potentially damaging evidence from getting into the public realm," Koshinsky said Thursday, one day before her deadline to accept the festival's nine-part settlement offer.
The offer was accepted last Friday by human rights adjudicator Tracey Epp as about what would have been ordered if the matter had gone to a hearing.
"I don't find anything has really changed here. Everything is status quo and business as usual here... but I have never said to anyone: 'boycott the folk festival,'" Koshinsky said.
"I've never done anything to intentionally damage their reputation. I just am telling the truth. I hope they find their heart and soul again."
The festival responded to a Free Press request for comment in an emailed statement.
"The Winnipeg Folk Festival does not participate in discrimination in any way, shape or form and we have always been regretful of the impact this situation has had on Ms. Koshinsky," the statement said.
"We always wanted to resolve this as amicably as possible within the complaint process and to treat Ms. Koshinsky with kindness and compassion. This is evidenced by the resolution we put forward, which the adjudicator has found to be reasonable.
"We want to express our heartfelt well wishes to Ms. Koshinsky. We remain committed to maintaining a safe and respectful workplace and will continue to run this organization in accordance with those values it is based on."
Koshinsky was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer in 2013. She worked for four months while undergoing chemotherapy treatment before going on long-term disability for 1 1/2 years.
But according to the human rights commission's investigation report, when a doctor cleared Koshinsky to return to work in 2016 and the insurance provider told the festival's executive director on Feb. 23, 2016 that Koshinsky was able to go back to work with a graduated return, the executive director responded on March 10 that it "was unable to accommodate the proposed graduated return-to-work plan."
Four days later, in a meeting with both the festival's executive director and board chair, Koshinsky received a notice of termination of her employment.
In addition to the financial settlement, the festival has also agreed to apologize to Koshinsky and to agree that both the board chair and all employees responsible for decisions about accommodation in the workplace will attend a human rights commission seminar before June 30, 2020.
As well, it has agreed to provide Koshinsky with a letter of reference, ensure any inquiries from prospective employers will be dealt with by the executive director in a manner consistent with the letter of reference, will consult with a lawyer about its accommodation-related policy and will give Koshinsky two weekend passes to next year's festival.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
Updated on Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 5:30 PM CST: tweaks headline
5:53 PM: removes reference to any admission of guilt
November 8, 2019 at 12:39 PM: Clarifies reference to general damages.
12:46 PM: Adds PDF of decision
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