Former employee files lawsuit against Western

Joe Lord

A former office associate for Student Disability Services has filed suit against Western, claiming she was fired in December without cause.

The suit was filed March 6 in Warren Circuit Court. In it, Anita Joplin-Johnson is asking to get back her job, to receive punitive damages and to be compensated for attorney’s and witnesses’ fees.

General Counsel Deborah Wilkins said she expects to have an answer to the complaint filed soon and to also file a schedule for depositions within 30 days.

Joplin-Johnson’s one-year tenure at Western ended in December when she was released from a job working for Matt Davis, coordinator for Student Disability Services.

According to the lawsuit, Joplin-Johnson told Huda Melky, an equal opportunity compliance officer, in September that Davis was missing deadlines and not properly doing his job. The suit said she told Melky in October that Davis was spending a bulk of his work time “surfing” on the Web and on personal business.

Months later, the suit said, Melky confronted and intimidated Joplin-Johnson after the latter had advised a disgruntled student to meet with Provost Barbara Burch or Gene Tice, vice president for Student Affairs and campus services.

Joplin-Johnson told Burch, Tice and Human Resources Director Tony Glisson in mid-December the same information about Davis’ job performance she had told Melky in the months beforehand.

Joplin-Johnson was fired Dec. 18 for “failure to meet the performance expectations of your supervisor/department,” a letter from Glisson to Joplin-Johnson said.

According to a document provided by Wilkins’ office, employment at Western “may be terminated with or without cause, and without notice, at any time, at the option of the university or employees.”

Neither Joplin-Johnson or her attorney could be reached for comment.

Davis, Melky and Tice declined to comment for this story.

In a memorandum obtained by the Herald dated Dec. 11, Davis told Melky that Joplin-Johnson had, among other complaints, left work without approval, called him a “dummy” and did not fulfill his requests. In that memo, Davis recommended Joplin-Johnson be fired.

The memo also said Joplin-Johnson interfered with Davis’ job when she referred a disgruntled student to Burch instead of to him. Davis was out of town at that time.

The student, Owensboro junior Abby Terrett, said Joplin-Johnson never advised her to take her complaints about the service to administrators above Melky and Davis. Instead, Terrett said she was advised to meet with Burch by a faculty member.

“(Joplin-Johnson) was just a person I could go to,” Terrett said. “She would listen to me. She never really gave feed back. She just listened.”

Terrett described Davis as “a good guy.” Regardless, she still had issues with his service.

“As a disability counselor, he didn’t help me,” she said. “That’s what I needed.”

Wilkins’ said there is no proof Davis is not doing his job, as the suit claims.

“I am confident that Matt Davis knows what he’s doing, that he does a good job — that he knows better what disabled students need than Mrs. Joplin-Johnson does,” Wilkins said.

Reach Joseph Lord at [email protected]