An employee who was fired from her advancement position alleged she was a victim of discrimination and said Queen’s University’s decision is a breach of her contract.
Sarah Roth, a Queen’s and Harvard alumna, began as the Executive Director of Development for the Faculty of Arts and Science in 2018, after having worked at Queen’s in various roles since 2007. In her role, Roth led an advancement team charged with communicating with the University’s major donors.
Roth was fired from her role at Queen’s this past April, four months before she was supposed to resume working full-time after experiencing chronic pain related to a hip condition. A week after her termination, Roth underwent the surgery she’d been waiting on since 2021.
“I was terminated on April 20, which was 10 days before my surgery,” Roth said in an interview with The Journal. “It was a very, very stressful event. It was a very stressful time because all I wanted to be doing was preparing for my surgery and getting all the walkers, and toilet seats, and all the things that [I needed].”
As recommended by her doctor, Roth went on leave due to her condition in June 2021. In November that same year, due to immense pain and COVID-19 related delays of her surgery, Roth applied for long-term disability leave. Her leave lasted almost two years.
While on sick leave awaiting a hip replacement, Queen’s accused Roth of waitressing at Kingston restaurant Whiskey and Rosé. The accusation ended her access to employee benefits through Manulife in December of 2022, which was followed by Queen’s terminating her employment in April 2023.
“[Queen’s] reached out to me in March to arrange a meeting,” Roth said. “That was the first indication for me something was not going well or that I was not going to leave and return.”
During her leave as Executive Director, she worked at Queen’s as a coach, consulting with students on an as-needed basis for two hours per week, being paid a fraction of her initial salary.
Roth alleged Queen’s fired her for failing to disclose alternative income and failing to notify the University of changes in her abilities, according to Roth’s Statement of Claim, which was obtained by The Journal.
According to the Statement of Claim, Queen’s denied knowledge of paying Roth for coaching citing it as a reason to terminate her from her executive director role.
Roth reported being in considerable pain while awaiting surgery, which impacted her ability to work. An ex-varsity athlete, Roth considers herself to be resilient, but knew she had to pace herself given her disability.
“It got to a point where I couldn’t walk my dog. I was always having friends help me walk my dog,” Roth said.
With COVID-19 delaying surgeries, Roth continued coaching and purchased an investment property on Brock Street. Roth rented the property to friend and chef Amanda Finkle, who opened Whiskey & Rosé.
“I don’t work there—I never have worked there,” Roth said.
Roth explained to The Journal she owned other properties in the past and was told by her human resource contact at Queen’s she could invest in properties while on leave.
“I’ve always invested in real estate. Some people do RRSPs or invest in the stock market. This is my choice,” Roth said. “I said to [my Queen’s contact] ‘is that okay?’ She said yeah of course, you can invest your money that way.
This wasn’t Roth’s first time on leave due to her hip condition. Roth had her left hip replaced in 2015 and returned to working at Queen’s 11 weeks post-surgery.
Roth is claiming $350,000 for wrongful dismissal, $100,000 in damages for discrimination based in disability and lost wages, $100,000 for Queen’s “bad faith,” and any other relief the Court deem just.
Queen’s informed Roth it intended to defend the action in Ontario Superior Court on Aug. 18.
Queen’s position and reasoning will become public when it is filed with the Court by their representation.
“This matter remains before the courts. Due to privacy considerations, we will not comment about specific individuals or cases before the courts,” Queen’s University said.
For Roth, the lawsuit is about resolution. After building her entire career at Queen’s, Roth is seeking closure before pursuing her next chapter.
“I was very devastated, disappointed, by my termination and I feel that I have been wronged in a number of ways. The way my termination unfolded was very unfair,” Roth said. “I felt the need to stand up for myself. I feel the need to continue to stand up for myself.”
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