Former VP sues Yukon University over alleged wrongful dismissal

Yukon University's Ayamdigut campus in Whitehorse. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC - image credit)
Yukon University's Ayamdigut campus in Whitehorse. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC - image credit)

Dr. Janet Welch's time at Yukon University ended abruptly. The aftermath, however, drags on.

Welch is suing the university for wrongful dismissal after she was let go in March, 2022. She claims the school breached the terms of her contract by firing her without cause and as a result owes her a year's pay — more than $242,000.

In a statement of claim filed in Yukon Supreme Court in October, 2022, Welch says she submitted her resignation on March 21, 2022, with her last day on the job to be April 14 that year.

But Welch says two days after submitting her resignation, she was stripped of her role on the university's governing council and committees and instead assigned clerical tasks "which were far below her position and not in the scope of her regular employment duties."

When she complained, Welch says she was then fired without cause and told to pack her things, return her work computer and other university property and leave campus.

In her statement of claim, Welch says she suffered "great shock" as her dismissal damaged her professional reputation. She now works as the interim vice president, academic at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary.

"The academic and professional community in the Yukon is small and close-knit," the statement of claim read. "The manner of the plaintiff's termination from the university caused her to lose employment opportunities in the Yukon."

Dismissal above board, university claims

In its statement of defence, the university denies all of Welch's allegations. The statement says it assigned Welch duties that were outlined in her job description.

The university says its president, Dr. Lesley Brown, fired Welch after she refused to perform those duties and paid her until April 14 as well as for approximately three months of accrued vacation time.

The university's statement of defence also claims Welch deleted emails, violating the university's record management policy, and issued a sole source contract for a climbing wall without consulting university leadership. The statement of defence alleges this breached the university's procurement rules.

The climbing wall was built — then removed before being used — at a cost of nearly $75,000.

The university says it became aware of the alleged misconduct months after Welch's departure. It does not say how it obtained that information.

In a reply to the statement of defence, Welch says she backed up her emails and only deleted them after school IT staff told her to.

She also says she backed an early funding proposal for the climbing wall. But she says she never issued any contract for the project, which, she says, would have had to be approved by the university's finance department.

None of the allegations made by either side in the case has been proven in court.