Former Fairgrounds employee never told why she was let go
Taylor Gunnoe is a former employee of the Tri-County Fairgrounds.
A 2009 graduate of Bishop Union High School, she was hired by Fairgrounds CEO Suzie Wolfersberger during the summer of 2015, just prior to the Tri-County Fair.
Gunnoe said her job title was Office Assistant. She and Wolfersberger comprised the entire office staff.
She was dating Jason Schuler at the time. Schuler also worked at the Fairgrounds at the time, for Ben Barlow in maintenance.
After the 2015 Fair, Gunnoe said she was kept on full-time. “In the beginning, it was great,” Gunnoe said of her relationship with Wolfersberger
Towards the end of the year, she got pregnant.
Into 2016, as her pregnancy advanced, Gunnoe said the relationship with Wolfersberger became strained.
“About two months before I left, she started getting snippy with me,” said Gunnoe.
She then went on maternity leave, with the understanding that she would return at the end of November.
About a week before she was set to return, Gunnoe visited the Fairgrounds office. She says she was told by Wolfersberger that she was no longer needed and that she was being let go. “She said they were eliminating the position,” recalls Gunnoe.
Interestingly, that left two people in the office, the same number that populated the office before Gunnoe went on leave.
Gunnoe, however, had been replaced by Betty Jo Whitman, who Gunnoe says had initially been hired that summer, on a part-time basis.
Further, Wolfersberger at the time contended Gunnoe had quit, so therefore, she was not eligible to collect unemployment.
Fair employees are at-will employees, according to Board member Jaque Hickman. Which means they can be let go at any time for any reason.
Gunnoe also explained that Fair employees do not receive sick pay, vacation pay, or paid maternity leave. Employees are not offered health insurance.
There is a PERS (retirement) benefit. Gunnoe also said she was assured she would have a position upon her return.
Ironically, the proceeds from the Fair’s 2016 Pie Contest were donated to Gunnoe, because she experienced complications during her pregnancy.
Her daughter was born with gastroschisis, a rare birth defect where a baby’s intestines are located outside the baby’s abdominal wall. So when the baby is born, surgery is required to put the intestines back inside.
The CDC estimates about 2,000 babies each year are born with this condition.
If treated, the long-term outlook for such babies is relatively good.
Gunnoe said she never had a performance review while she worked for the Fairgrounds, and was given no reason for her dismissal, other than her relationship with Schuler, which was cited as a “personnel conflict.”
Which seems odd, as Wolfersberger hired Betty Jo Whitman’s boyfriend to work in maintenance just prior to this year’s Fair.
Gunnoe said she ran into Wolfersberger at a beauty salon two months ago. “She hugged me and told me she was sorry for all the crap she had put me through,” said Gunnoe, who currently works part-time at Sierra Security Systems.
Hickman said she could not comment on Gunnoe’s claims as this is a “personnel issue.”
She did say this: “As we look at the guidance from the state [in terms of] state requirements for job [positions] and skill sets … I think we’ll continue to see change.”