The City of Vernon was ordered to reinstate two terminated firefighters caught having sex at work. (File photo)

Vernon ordered to reinstate terminated firefighters caught having sex at work

City believes arbitration board erred, exploring options

The City of Vernon has been ordered to reinstate two employees who were fired in March 2018 for engaging in sexual activity in the workplace while on duty.

This order has been made by a majority of the arbitration board that had been convened to hear a grievance brought forward by the B.C. International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). Both individuals worked in the City’s Fire Service prior to having been terminated last March. One of them, a fire captain at the time of his termination, had previously served a recent three-day suspension for engaging in bullying and harassment of a fellow firefighter.

“Our emergency personnel have a duty to serve our taxpayers and respond with all due diligence, not to be distracted from their duties by engaging in sexual relations in the Fire Hall when on shift. Lives depend on rapid response. Engaging in sexual activity rather than managing the Platoon is absolutely unacceptable,” said Will Pearce, Chief Administrative Officer for the City.

Read more: City, firefighters dispute surveillance camera

“I am most disappointed in the majority decision. It sends entirely the wrong message to Fire personnel across the country and to staff of the City of Vernon. It is not now and will never be acceptable or ethical for a direct supervisor to engage in a sexual relationship with junior and subordinate staff. The City of Vernon has an employee code of ethics, known by both employees, that requires staff to maintain ‘the highest ideals of honor and integrity in public and business relationships’ and not to act ‘in any way that would detract from the image of integrity or professionalism of the City of Vernon.’

“I extend my apologies to the citizens of Vernon for the behavior of these two people. Our staff, with few exceptions, are dedicated to high standards of service, ethics, integrity and honesty. These two individuals do not reflect the professionalism of the proud public servants who work for the City.”

In the ruling, the panel suggested that termination was excessive and instead proposed a four-month suspension as well as a temporary demotion for the captain.

“A picture might be worth a thousand words, but silent video footage is only part of the story. For some unexplained reason, the employer did not take time to become fully informed and assess the situation before deciding the appropriate response. Perhaps the employer did not want to hear what they might say and risk changing the narrative it had constructed based on 88 seconds of video footage and an investigation the employer now acknowledges had ‘shortcomings,’” the ruling reads.

“In the context of an employment relationship, employer discipline is not to punish. It is to correct unwanted behaviour and misconduct. Corrective discipline is imposed with progressively more severe penalties for repeat and more serious misconduct because it is unjust to dismiss an employee for misconduct without first attempting to correct the behaviour.”

However, the decision of the Arbitration Panel was not unanimous.

John McKearney, former Fire Chief (retired) of the Vancouver Fire Department, wrote: “In 2018, a fire captain involved in a sexual encounter with a female subordinate, in the fire hall, in a reckless open manner, on a Sunday morning, must generally be considered cause for termination. The conduct was antithetical to [his] responsibility as Captain and leader of the shift and has created a poison work environment for other females in the hall (and for males). His actions were a gross violation of his duty to create a welcoming work environment for all, and especially for women. [This individual] does not have a clean disciplinary record to perhaps mitigate towards reinstatement. His recent disciplinary record is significant.”

Pearce said he is of the opinion the arbitration board erred in arriving at its decision and as such the City is exploring a range of options.

Read more: Firefighters, city reach collective deal


@VernonNews
newstips@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Graffiti Days 2019 a huge success

Hundreds of cars and spectators — including a History channel TV personality — turned out for the event

Bus company fears for future if another licence issued for Interior routes

Adventure Charters waiting to see if Ebus BC is approved for Prince George-Kamloops run

Sea Cadets wind up another year with Ceremonial Review

Corps is fundraising for a trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 2020

WorkBC helping break down barriers to employment

Office offers a wide range of services to help people find sustainable careers

Local News Briefs: Get garden ideas with Ashcroft tour

The Rivertown Players are back, invasive plant management, reduced tipping fees, and more

VIDEO: B.C. First Nation plans to launch legal challenge after Trans Mountain approval

Meanwhile, Premier John Horgan says he’ll continue to defend the B.C. coast

Life’s work of talented B.C. sculptor leads to leukemia

Former Salmon Arm resident warns of dangers of chemical contact

Billboard posted along B.C.’s Highway of Tears to remember missing and murdered Indigenous women

Billboards featuring Indigenous artwork to be placed in Surrey, Kamloops and near Prince George

Federal cabinet ministers visit Edmonton, Calgary, in wake of TMX approval

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi is set to visit Trans Mountain Corp.’s terminal in Edmonton

B.C. municipality prepares to forbid overnight camping by homeless despite court ruling

While courts have ruled against blanket bans, Langley City is employing a site-by-site approach

B.C. auditor says Indigenous grad rate highest ever but education gaps exist

The percentage of Indigenous students graduating from B.C. public high schools has hit its highest level ever

Statistics Canada reports annual pace of inflation rises in May to 2.4%

Transportation prices gained 3.1 per cent as the cost of air transportation added 8.9 per cent

MPs hear retired B.C. nurse’s petition to change compensation for fatal medical errors

Teri McGrath wants provinces to implement no-fault system for medical errors

Demonstrators on either side of Trans Mountain debate clash in Vancouver

Crowd heard from member of Indigenous-led coalition that hopes to buy 51% of expansion project

Most Read