A 28-year-old Canadian woman, Stephanie Katelnikoff, has been terminated for a second time by the Canadian Pacific Railway. A former conductor, Katelnikoff was wrongfully fired in the aftermath of a December 2014 train derailment in Banff, but her employment was eventually reinstated. As outlined in more detailed below, Stephanie was not blamed for the derailment, but she was accused of violating various company policies in its aftermath.
Last year, CP Rail made the ultimate decision to let Katelnikoff go a second time after they said she posted “graphic” photos on social media that violated several company policies and essentially made CP Rail look bad.
Incidentally, during the heavy media coverage that followed, a lot of people took notice of Katenikoff’s impressive modeling portfolio and her striking looks, and she has been invited to compete in the Miss Canada Competition.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Katelnikoff Will Be Competing in the “Miss Canada” Competition After Reaching Out Ages Ago
The Mountainview Gazette reports that Katelnikoff reached out to the Miss Canadda Compeition “ages ago” when she was pursuing a professional modeling career. She did not hear back from them. Then, after all of the news coverage following her turbulent employment with CP Rail (outlined in detail below), Katelnikoff’s face was all over Canadian media, and many took notice, including the Miss Canada event organizers.
Of course, Katelnikoff is more than just a pretty face; which is exactly what the event organizers are looking for. Katelnikoff kept a cool head when she was wrongfully terminated and continued to fight for what she believed in. She also continues to fight for her rightful place as a train engineer in a heavily-male dominated industry.
Katelnikoff has certainly striven to find the silver lining following her second dismissal from CP Rail, and perhaps joining the Miss Canada competition is a testament to that. For more information on the Miss Canada competition, check out the official website.
2. Katelnikoff Was Fired Following the 2014 Derailment, But She Was Not Held Responsible For The Derailment Itself
In Banff, on December 26, 2014, 15 cars went off the tracks, seven of which crashed into a creek bed, CBC News reports. Food products and fly ash spilled into the water, creating a chaotic scene and presenting a potential environmental hazard. Environmentalists feared that fish eggs would be unable to hatch due to the pollutants that spilled into the water.
Katelnikoff was injured as a result of breathing in harmful pollutants at the crash scene and was ordered by a doctor to take a brief period of medical leave. No one was killed during the derailment, thankfully. “It was quite a traumatic experience,” Katelnikoff told Heavy. “No one told me that it was hazardous material,” she explained. As a result, Katelnikoff required hospitalization.
While CP Rail did not directly blame Katelnikoff for the derailment, the company was quick to send her a letter formally outlining all of CP Rail’s policies and procedures Katelnikoff was accused of violating in the aftermath of the derailment. Katelnikoff spoke out in response to her termination, and explained to CBC News that she disagreed with the company’s decision. Additionally, Katelnikoff was penalized for speaking with the media concerning the derailment.
“I wasn’t thinking, I was in utter shock. Totally ill-prepared to find something like that,” Katelnikoff told the CBC in 2015. “It put me in a bit of a panic because it was only my second trip and I was already just anxious to be on the train by myself, let alone deal with a derailment.”
How did Katelnikoff react when she received the notice of termination? Katelnikoff told Heavy that she was “devastated and shocked” by CP Rail’s total disregard for her safety and well-being.
She told the news station she was hired in late July 2014, just months before the derailment, and received four weeks of classroom training before 13 weeks of on the job training, including six weeks in a railyard and seven weeks on trains. She was still in a probationary period at the time of the derailment, but was working on her own for only the second time.
“Even just a few extra weeks would have been beneficial,” Katelnikoff told the CBC. “I felt anxious to be out by myself, after what training I had. I did not feel like I was adequately trained. I felt like I was rushed through the training.”
3. Katelnikoff Filed a Wrongful Termination Suit & Won, but Said She Felt Like She Had a Target on Her Back After Returning to Work
After a lengthy investigation, it was ultimately determined that CP Rail acted in bad faith when firing Katelnikoff, The Calgary Herald explains. It was confirmed by engineers that the derailment was caused by a break in the tracks; not because of any errors made by Katelnikoff, which was never a question in the first place.
Katelnikoff’s employment was reinstated. However, when she went back to work, she said she felt that she had a giant target on her back, Vice reports.
In an incredible detail reported by The Calgary Herald, it was revealed that a factor in Katelnikoff’s termination was a sexual harassment claim she brought against a former coworker. Katelnikoff’s firing was described as a way of camouflaging her sexual harassment claim and keeping it hidden from public view. Katelnikoff told Heavy that the rail industry is very male dominated and at the time she started working as a conductor, she was one of the youngest employees of CP Rail.
The arbitrator assigned to Katelnikoff’s wrongful termination suit against CP Rail, Maureen Flynn, determined that the company erred in its decision and acted in bad faith. Flynn’s decision is published in full in the library of Canadian arbitration awards. Katelnikoff approved of Flynn’s decision, stating that she had a broad, sharp and accurate understanding of the events that transpired concerning Katelnikoff’s termination, and fully agreed that CP Rail made an error in judgment.
4. She Was Fired a Second Time in November Over Racy Social Media Posts, Which the Rail Company Says Violated Its Code of Ethics
Last fall, Katelnikoff received another notice of termination from CP Rail, reports The Calgary Herald. This time, Katelnikoff was being let go for suggestive and explicit social media posts. The company said her posts violated its ethics policy and its policy on internet and email usage.
According to the CBC, the evidence package used against Katelnikoff “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. In some posts, she talks about her pride in her job on a train crew, while in others she is critical of the company and its management. She doesn’t use her real name, but does say she works for CP Rail.”
Katelnikoff told the CBC that she thinks her negative comments about CP Rail’s handling of her previous dismissal was equally the cause of her firing.
“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,” she told the CBC. “So I’m not sure what of my content they’ve deemed appropriate and inappropriate. The investigative officer called my social media content graphic.”
She has deleted the photos of her on the railroad tracks.
“It’s dangerous and I don’t recommend anyone does it,” she told the CBC. But she stands by her other photos, which she says are part of a modeling hobby. “I don’t regret creating that art or sharing that art.”
She Is Challenging Her Termination Once Again, Saying Working as a Conductor Is ‘Amazing’
Fox News reports that a grievance has been filed against CP Rail on Katelnikoff’s behalf. A representative for CP Rail declined to comment on the case.
In the meantime, Katelnikoff’s case remains pending. A formal arbitration date has yet to be scheduled. As Vice reports, Katelnikoff stands by her modeling photos and does not believe that any of her social media posts were damaging to CP Rail’s reputation. According to the investigative package presented by CP Rail, Katelnikoff received several warnings about violating company policy. Vice reports that Katelnikoff was vocal in her criticism of CP Rail’s corporate culture and policies, posting several videos to YouTube explaining her position. Katelnikoff believes that her criticism of the company played a factor in her termination.
If Katelnikoff wins her second wrongful termination case, will she return to her position as a conductor? That remains to be seen. She informed CBC that “the work itself is amazing” and that being a train conductor was her favorite job.
Drew Jarisz, an Edmonton-based employment lawyer at Taylor Janis Workplace Law, told the CBC, “I was surprised that in the investigative material, CP choose to produce the racy photographs. 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,. I find it very difficult in this case to see how these racy images could impact the ability of CP to carry on business.”
5. Katelnikoff Also Made Headlines for Fixing Hundreds of Bikes in Her Home to Give Away to Calgary Kids
Katelnikoff says on her Instagram she is, “Successfully self employed. Philanthropist. Hunting Addict. Model-ish.” On Facebook, the Calgary-based Katelnikoff writes that she is a “Problem solving, ever evolving, charity giving, curiously living, dog adoring, jerk ignoring brat.”
In December, Katelnikoff posted a message directed toward CP Rail on Facebook, writing, “Hey #CPRAIL could someone maybe call me back about the thousands and thousands of dollars in wages you owe me? No one has returned my calls or messages but I know you lurk my social media because you fired me over modelling pics and socialmediawhatnot. So anyways, hopefully this gets your attention and we can sort this out? Ex-Employee #1000980.”
Katelnikoff has also made headlines for her charitable efforts. She has fixed hundreds of bikes in her kitchen to give to local kids in Calgary, according to the CBC, which wrote about her work in April 2017.
“There’s a lot of avenues for other ways that people can get help, whether it’s for housing or food or clothes, but as far as I know there’s not really much out there for bikes, so I just want to offer something to kids that they’re not able to get otherwise,” she told the news network. “If all your friends have a bike and you don’t have one, that definitely sucks a whole bunch. It’s exercise. It’s entertainment. It’s freedom and transportation. It’s a whole bunch of different things.”
Katelnikoff told the CBC her own childhood inspired her.
“When I was younger I spent a lot of years in and out of the hospital. I was really sick growing up, so I mean I had a lot of doctors and nurses that were super, super nice to me and it just made everything so much better and easier,” she told the CBC. “”Sometimes parents don’t tell their kids that they’re coming to pick up a new bike. It’s a surprise, so they don’t know until they walk through the gate that there’s a new bike for them and they’re super excited. It’s pretty rewarding to be able to give a kid something that for a lot of them is a really big thing.”
After her story about her second firing hit the media, Katelnikoff posted on Facebook a possible solution to the issue, saying that she was not looking for money from CP Rail.
When asked by Heavy if she would ever return to her work as a conductor for CP Rail, she responded “it remains to be seen.” Katelnikoff is committed to her more philanthropic and charitable efforts, stating “I’m hoping that I can take something bad and turn it into something good.”
“In it for the money? Trying to get a payout? Oh hell no,” she wrote. She added:
Tell you what. Hey @cprail if you want me to drop the arbitration, drop the human rights complaints, write off the wages and other monies you owe me, stop talking to the media and never come back again…
1) Buy 1000 bike’s to donate to local kids who don’t have one.
2) Donate $50,000 to my favourite animal rescue. Heck you’ll even get a tax receipt.
I’ll sign a full release of all claims. How’s that sound?
Let’s make #lemonadesoutoflemons