Following her removal in April 2017, former engineering co-op director Jenny Reilly has filed a civil claim against UBC and Dr. Elizabeth Croft, alleging that they violated her right to privacy during the termination process.
The university and Croft, former associate dean of education and professional development in the faculty of applied sciences, have denied this allegation in their response to the claim.
The civil claim outlines a series of events that gave Reilly “a reasonable expectation of privacy,” which was allegedly breached by Croft during meetings between faculty of applied sciences’s department heads and directors following Reilly’s termination, when Croft allegedly revealed personal information about Reilly.
In December 2015, two UBC employees accused Reilly of bullying and harassment, but she was cleared after a six-month internal investigation.
However, UBC and Croft’s response also said that Reilly had failed to follow UBC’s respectful environment statement, in ways that were not specified. The university then communicated these findings and a number of recommendations — like notifying her of a review of the engineering co-op program and hiring a performance coach to work on her management and communication skills — in a May 17, 2016 letter to Reilly.
Joey Hansen, executive director of the Association of Administrative and Professional Staff at UBC (AAPS) and Reilly’s representative, verified the letter’s existence but “fundamentally disagreed” with it.
“I will say that AAPS and Ms. Reilly fundamentally disagree with the contents of that letter,” he said in an emailed response, “and that the letter is the result of a flawed, biased and unprofessional investigation that the University ought to be embarrassed of, rather than relying upon.”
Hansen was not able to show The Ubyssey the letter, citing confidential information.
Also in May 2016, Reilly was disciplined for not adhering to instructions following the investigation and for disclosing confidential information of other employees, but this was removed from her file after a grievance process settled by AAPS and UBC.
On April 25, 2017, UBC removed Reilly from her position in order to restructure the engineering co-op program, reasoning that it communicated to both her and the public.
But Reilly alleged that during meetings between faculty of applied sciences’s department heads and directors, Croft “expressly stated or implied that” she was terminated because of the bullying and harassment accusation, an inadequate job performance and a lack of improvement in response to coaching from UBC.
“The statements publicly disclosed embarrassing facts about Reilly,” reads the civil claim.
“As a result of the statements, Reilly has suffered, inter alia, loss of reputation and loss of employment opportunities.”
UBC and Croft’s response said that there were discussions about Reilly’s job performance in these meetings, but noted that they were confidential to the faculty’s senior administration who also had “a legitimate interest in understanding [her] removal.”
It also said that Croft confirmed restructuring as the reason for terminating Reilly during the meetings.
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Outside of this process, the removal of Reilly as the engineering co-op program director came as a surprise to many students and staff, especially those who were working on an external review of the program. They had to abandon the study to avoid the idea that they had caused the termination.
“Everyone who was on that external review was like, ‘Well, we can’t submit the report because then it will just look like we had a stake in this person being fired when in fact we did not want that to happen,’ so that report was never completed,” said Jakob Gattinger, former Engineering Undergraduate Society VP Academic and a member of the external review committee.
“We were not consulted. We were not told anything. We found out through a statement that was emailed out through the applied sciences faculty.”
According to Gattinger, the review delved into systemic issues, such as the lack of resources, rather than complaints that could have been fixed by a change in staff.
“[The review] actually had good recommendations for the program as to how to address some of the big-picture problems — I think that it was just a shame that in the end, we couldn’t go forward with it,” he said.
Currently, a trial date has not been set for the civil claim. UBC has declined to comment, citing that the civil claim is currently before the courts. Croft, who is now Monash University’s dean of the faculty of engineering, could not be reached for comment.