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Penticton BC fire chief files suit alleging wrongful dismissal

The CBC reports that a former fire chief from Penticton in southern British Columbia has brought a lawsuit alleging wrongful dismissal by his former city employer. The 56-year-old plaintiff filed the action in the BC Supreme Court claiming that he was dismissed from his employment while he was on short-term disability and receiving workers' compensation for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from work-related trauma. 

The wrongful termination lawsuit asks for damages for lost wages, vacation pay, mental distress and humiliation, according to the CBC. The employer did not comment publicly on the matter. Reportedly, the complaint states that the city made "irrelevant and inaccurate" statements to WorkSafeBC, the province's workers' compensation agency, that the chief had "performance issues" and displayed insubordination. 

The Plaintiff alleges that after he had been on leave only one week, the city blocked his access to internal computers and asked for his work telephones back. The chief originally had announced and told the city he would retire on a certain date, after which he changed his intention to retire. He says that the employer agreed a retirement date would be decided after WorkSafeBC said he was able to return to work again. He alleges that he was discharged anyway on the date he had originally decided to retire, even though he had later made a different decision. 

Developments in this case will be watched with interest. Employees who believe they have been wrongfully dismissed or employers who have been faced with a wrongful dismissal lawsuit should speak with an employment lawyer as soon as possible. Employers should also consider seeking preventative legal advice prior to the termination of an employee's employment to mitigate the risks of a wrongful dismissal lawsuit and to ensure that the decision is made with a full appreciation of the rights the employee may hold.

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