Ousted radio host Jian Ghomeshi has filed a lawsuit against his former employer, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, alleging the broadcaster misused personal information he provided in confidence.
The $55-million lawsuit was filed on Monday in a Toronto court, one day after the CBC fired Mr. Ghomeshi and the radio host released a 1,586-word statement on Facebook saying he was let go due to fears of a scandal if his "adventurous" sexual behaviour came to public attention.
The suit seeks $25-million for breach of confidence, $25-million for defamation and $5-million in punitive damages. A CBC spokesman has said the corporation "recently" received information that "precludes" it from continuing to employ Mr. Ghomeshi – comments the lawsuit alleges contain "damaging innuendo."
Mr. Ghomeshi was fired on Sunday, two days after he was put on indefinite leave to deal with what the CBC called "personal issues." The Toronto Star reported late on Sunday that three women have made allegations of violent, non-consensual assaults by Mr. Ghomeshi, but noted that none had reported their claims to police. The Star also said a former employee of the CBC claimed to have been sexually harassed by Mr. Ghomeshi.
Documents filed in court allege that in meetings, discussions and conference calls lasting "several months," Mr. Ghomeshi told CBC executives details of his sex life, and warned that allegations of abusive sexual behaviour might be made public, and they jointly drafted a potential response.
Mr. Ghomeshi's statement, which offers a version of events leading to his firing, has raised questions about what constitutes consent between partners in sexual activities that involve dominance and submission. The lawsuit raises similarly fraught issues about an employer's right to dismiss an employee over conduct outside the workplace – particularly a unionized one.
Lawyers for Mr. Ghomeshi said he also intends to file a grievance for reinstatement through his union, the Canadian Media Guild. In an e-mail, union president Carmel Smyth declined to comment on "individual members." But she said the union has "no record of anyone filing a formal complaint related to this issue at any time," and that it takes "all such complaints seriously."
Over the past eight years, Mr. Ghomeshi emerged as one of the CBC's brightest stars, building an international profile while hosting the cultural-affairs show Q with Jian Ghomeshi. In his statement on Sunday, he said some might find his "tastes in the bedroom," including bondage-discipline, "strange, enticing, weird, normal, or outright offensive."
The lawsuit alleges executives at the CBC were privy to this information long before he made it public, and that the CBC misused "personal and confidential information provided to it in confidence," knowing that he "was reposing a considerable amount of trust" in his superiors by confiding to them.
The lawsuit also alleges Mr. Ghomeshi gave Chris Boyce, the CBC's executive director of radio and audio, and Chuck Thompson, its head of public affairs, details of what he called a consensual sexual relationship with an ex-partner "with the reasonable expectation" the CBC would not use it against him.
In separate e-mails, Mr. Boyce and Mr. Thompson said that because they are named in the lawsuit, they cannot comment.
Mr. Ghomeshi consulted with the CBC over a period of months, according to the lawsuit, and CBC executives "commented on and assisted in drafting" press releases and responses to media questions that could be issued if his conduct became public.
He also directed his lawyers to share "certain materials exchanged between himself and the woman" he believed was making allegations of violence and abuse against him to demonstrate that their sexual encounters were consensual, the lawsuit said. Mr. Ghomeshi is represented by the law firm Dentons Canada LLP.
In his Facebook statement, Mr. Ghomeshi writes that he voluntarily shared evidence "on Thursday," and that "this [was] when the CBC decided to fire me." The lawsuit alleges he was placed on leave on Thursday, Oct. 23, "without cause or warning."
Mr. Ghomeshi's claim he was defamed rests partly on the fact he has long been in high demand for public appearances, some of them paid – opportunities that began drying up almost as soon as he was fired.
The CBC removed Mr. Ghomeshi as host of the Scotiabank Giller Prize gala being held in November, for which it is the broadcast partner, and from its Canada Reads literary series. Mr. Ghomeshi also withdrew from his scheduled appearance at a Tuesday event celebrating Penguin Canada's 40th anniversary.
Penguin Random House Canada confirmed Mr. Ghomeshi is under contract to write his second book. "We have no further comment," said Tracey Turriff, corporate spokesperson for the publisher.