Folk on the Rocks settles lawsuit with former executive director
Folk on the Rocks says it has settled a lawsuit with a former executive director through a confidential out-of-court agreement.
The Yellowknife music festival announced the settlement with David Whitelock in a brief statement on April 29, first reported by NNSL. The details, including any financial compensation, are not public.
Whitelock was executive director of Folk on the Rocks from March 2014 until December 2015, when the festival’s board terminated his employment a year and a half into his three-year contract. That contract stated Whitelock would be paid $85,000 per year and could be entitled to an annual bonus following a performance review if the festival generated excess income.
Whitelock filed a complaint in January 2016 claiming in part that Folk on the Rocks owed him that bonus, unpaid wages and holiday pay.
An employment standards officer dismissed many of those claims, saying the festival was running a deficit and did not have the funds to pay Whitelock a bonus. The officer did, however, find that Folk on the Rocks owed Whitelock $1,870.88 in termination pay.
Whitelock appealed that decision, which was dismissed a year later by an adjudicator reviewing the case. Whitelock in turn appealed that decision to the NWT Supreme Court, where a judge dismissed the case, determining Whitelock did not have the grounds for a court appeal.
Alongside his complaint to the Employment Standards Office, Whitelock separately sued Folk on the Rocks for $145,000 in damages in December 2017. The suit alleged that while Whitelock was away on sick leave, the festival terminated his employment without just cause, causing him “considerable stress, distress and humiliation.”
Whitelock claimed he was entitled to $120,000 in damages for wrongful dismissal and lost benefits, which he said was equal to the compensation he would have received had his contract not been terminated, including bonuses, travel allowance, vacation pay and overtime. He claimed an additional $25,000 in punitive, aggravated and exemplary damages.
In a statement of defence filed in response to the suit, Folk on the Rocks said Whitelock could not “have it both ways” by seeking termination pay, which implied his employment contract was not a fixed term, and then filing a lawsuit which submitted the contract had a finite term.
The festival argued that Whitelock’s contract did not have a fixed term as it had an option to extend after three years. It said if the court did find that Whitelock’s contract had a fixed term, he was not entitled to damages.
In its April 28 statement, Folk on the Rocks said Whitelock “wishes FOTR the best of luck with future festivals.”
Reached by Cabin Radio, Whitelock said he had no comment.