The train conductor who was at the controls during a 2014 Banff derailment has once again been fired by CP Rail, this time after butting heads with the company over social media posts, including “racy” boudoir photos.
The railroad fired Stephanie Katelnikoff in November after accusing her of violating CP Rail’s code of ethics and its internet and email policy, according to evidence presented by the company as part of an internal investigation into her conduct.
The evidence package, obtained by CBC News, includes photos posted by Katelnikoff on her personal Facebook and Instagram accounts, showing her in various revealing, nude and sexually suggestive poses. Some of the photos show Katelnikoff standing on railway tracks.
Cleared of fault in derailment
Katelnikoff was initially fired after the Banff derailment, which saw 15 cars carrying grains and fly ash, a material used to make concrete, go off the track west of the tourist town. She was reinstated nearly two years ago after an arbitrator ruled in her favour and found one of the reasons Katelnikoff was dismissed was because she had filed a sexual harassment complaint against a fellow employee.
Investigators determined a damaged portion of track was to blame for the derailment.
Now, Katelnikoff says this latest firing seems to equally be about her photos and her negative comments toward the company.
“I think it was a 50/50 split between the two. When I got dismissed, they blanketed everything together and said I was being dismissed for my inappropriate social media content. So I’m not sure what of my content they’ve deemed appropriate and inappropriate,” she said. “The investigative officer called my social media content graphic.”
Katelnikoff said she regrets some of her comments, such as calling the company’s code of ethics a “fictional comedy,” and she regrets photos which were taken on railroad tracks.
“It’s dangerous and I don’t recommend anyone does it,” she said.
The other pictures she said are part of her modelling hobby.
“I don’t regret creating that art or sharing that art.”
CP Rail did not respond to an interview request. However, the evidence package shows Katelnikoff also received a prior warning in 2016 for posting a YouTube video in which she criticized then-CEO Hunter Harrison.
CP Rail’s code of conduct posted online does not have a section specifically dealing with social media and a manager told Katelnikoff there was no social media policy.
In 2016, when Katelnikoff won her wrongful dismissal case against CP Rail, she told CBC News, “I definitely think I’m going back with a giant target on my back.”
Katelnikoff’s union, Teamsters Canada, also declined to comment. Katelnikoff said the union has filed a grievance on her behalf.
“I was surprised that in the investigative material, CP choose to produce the racy photographs,” said Drew Jarisz, an Edmonton-based employment lawyer at Taylor Janis Workplace Law.
“I think it probably hurts their case to substantiate a for-cause allegation, because to me now, in addition to reprimanding her for making derogatory remarks, let’s call them, about the company, it seems as if they are trying to impose their own moral standard and that’s too far for the company to go,” he said.
“I find it very difficult in this case to see how these racy images could impact the ability of CP to carry on business,” said Jarisz.
Katelnikoff said she is now waiting for a date to be set for arbitration and despite her eventful history with the company, she still hopes to be back in a train locomotive soon.
“The work itself is amazing. It’s my favourite job I’ve ever had.”