Former Bell execs allege sexism

Lawsuit claims corporate culture included sexist, vulgar language

Two former Bell ExpressVu executives have filed a civil lawsuit alleging gender discrimination in the workplace by their former employers.

In court documents, Fran Boutilier and Alison Green said they had to put up with a macho corporate culture that included sexist, vulgar language and being frozen out of drinking sessions with the "boys' club."

Boutilier and Green were the first female senior executives at the satellite TV company and in their sworn court documents they say they surpassed the performance of their male predecessors, posting better results and earning shares and praise from Michael Sabia , Bell Canada's chief executive officer.

In July 2005, the two women attended an off-site retreat with a martial arts theme. They had to read The Art of War, wear war paraphernalia such as bandannas, costumes and props and participate in a judo class.

It was this last element that was "over the top," Green told the Toronto Star. While Boutilier was able to pair up with a woman from another Bell Canada department, Green refused to pair up with a man to practise kicks, punches and chokeholds.

Not long after the retreat, both women were fired.

Boutilier and Green lodged a human rights complaint under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms against Bell and presented their side to a Canadian Human Rights tribunal in the fall.

On Monday, Jan. 14, Bell representatives, including president Gary Smith and vice-president of HR Greg Wells, appeared before the tribunal to give the company's side. Bell denies it discriminates in its senior ranks and none of the allegations has been proven in court.

The women's civil lawsuit was filed in the Ontario Superior Court. In its statement of defence, Bell says the women were not subjected to discrimination, but were fired because of concerns about their management performance.

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