Winnipeg Jets centre Mark Scheifele is being sued by his former personal chef, who alleges he was fired after refusing to provide cooking services for another NHL player at a "substantially" reduced cost.
In a statement of claim filed last week, Jeremy John Senaris is seeking $75,000 in damages for wrongful dismissal and breach of contract.
The lawsuit also names as a defendant an Ontario numbered company, an agent corporation allegedly controlled by Scheifele.
"Ultimately, Mr. Scheifele... doubled the plaintiff’s workload without his consent and agreement," the lawsuit claims. "The way that Mr. Scheifele attempted to impose these changes (was) done in a manner that was callous, unprofessional, and Mr. Scheifele did not provide the plaintiff with a legitimate business purpose for the change."
According to the lawsuit, Senaris, a 2016 MasterChef Canada finalist, was hired through Scheifele’s agent corporation to be his personal chef for the 2017-18 hockey season, at a salary of $50,000 — with an expectation he be responsible for all of Scheifele’s meal needs, on and off the road.
Senaris’s contract, says the lawsuit, included a health benefit plan and reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses.
"During the course of his employment, (Senaris) regularly received positive performance reviews from Mr. Scheifele," says the lawsuit. "Furthermore, (Senaris) was repeatedly mentioned during media interviews as a cause of Mr. Scheifele’s positive athletic performance."
However, the agent corporation didn’t pay or reimburse Senaris "in a timely manner," and failed to provide him with a health benefit plan, alleges the lawsuit.
When it came time to renew Senaris’s contract for the 2018-19 NHL season, Scheifele hired Senaris directly, with a promise to pay him on time and increase his salary, while Senaris agreed to resign from an outside, full-time position he held.
In September 2018, Scheifele’s agent contacted Senaris and "demanded" he include another NHL player in the contract, says the lawsuit, which did not identify the other player by name.
"The inclusion would come at a cost, substantially below what Mr. Scheifele was paying (Senaris)," the lawsuit alleges. Senaris refused to agree to the change to the contract and was "terminated suddenly, without warning or just cause" days later, two weeks into the new contract.
"In light of the substantial changes to the employment relationship, and Mr. Scheifele’s conduct, it would have been demeaning for (Senaris) to continue to work for Mr. Scheifele, under the newly imposed conditions," alleges the lawsuit. "As a result, (Senaris) immediately commenced seeking new employment elsewhere in order to mitigate his damages."
A statement of defence has not been filed. The allegations have not been proven in court.
A representative for Scheifele did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Scheifele, 26, is currently playing in his seventh full season with the Jets, the team that drafted him seventh overall in 2011. In 2016, he signed an eight-year, US$49-million contract that runs through the 2023-24 season.
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.