AVCP Sued For Discriminating Against Employee

Feb 15, 2018

A former employee is suing AVCP for pushing her out of the organization after she became a parent.
Credit Dean Swope/KYUK

A former employee is suing the Association of Village Council Presidents (AVCP) for discrimination. Alexandra Werba claims that the tribal non-profit organization pushed her out of her job shortly after she became a mother and decided to work from home.

Terry Venneburg, Werba’s attorney, said that the trouble started in January 2016 after Werba came back from maternity leave. She was AVCP’s Vice President of Finance, had just given birth to her first child, and was struggling with childcare. About two months after she came back to work, AVCP gave her the option to work from home, which Werba accepted. AVCP gave her a new position and she started working from home full-time.

Werba’s attorney argues that the new position was actually a temporary one, and that AVCP didn’t tell Werba she was giving up her old job before she took the deal. In September 2016, AVCP told Werba that the work for her new position had run out. Her job was gone.

Venneburg argues that AVCP pushed Werba out on purpose and discriminated against her for becoming a parent. "It was her family responsibilities choice, which concerned both pregnancy and parenthood, that resulted in her losing the Vice President of Finance position," he said.

He added that Werba’s not the only one who believes something went wrong. "It was testified by the former Human Resources director that she believed Ms. Werba was deceived," Venneberg said. "And that’s the word that she used."

Werba seeks a damage award in excess of $100,000; AVCP strongly denies that they discriminated against her. The Native non-profit corporation’s attorney, Christina Rankin, declined KYUK’s requests for comment, but in court on Monday, she told the court that the company may file a counter-suit against Werba. In the documents filed in the lawsuit, Rankin writes that Werba knew from the moment she was hired that she was an “at-will employee,” meaning that AVCP could fire her at any time for any reason.

Rankin also argues that AVCP had plenty of reasons to fire Werba. She claims that Werba made costly mistakes as Vice President of Finance and repeatedly brought her baby to work, which was in violation of AVCP’s policy. 

The lawsuit against AVCP is still in its early stages. The trial is currently set for May 2018.