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February 23, 2021, 9:06 am

City of Vernon Responds to BC Supreme Court Decision in Labour Dispute

City of Vernon
VERNON - On February 22, the BC Supreme Court dismissed a judicial review application brought by the City to overturn a decision of a reconsideration panel of the Labour Relations Board. The City’s application arose out of the termination of a Fire Services Captain for engaging in sexual activity with a subordinate, in an open manner, while on duty in the fire hall. The City terminated the Captain in 2018.

The BC International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) fought the termination and the matter proceeded to a hearing before a three-member Arbitration Board.  Ultimately, a majority of the Arbitration Board ruled that while “harsh discipline” was warranted, termination was excessive. One of the three members of the Arbitration Board did conclude termination was the only rational outcome.

The City did not agree that termination was excessive and has pursued the avenues of appeal available to it, first to the Labour Relations Board and more recently to the BC Supreme Court. The City’s appeal to the Court was not an opportunity for the Court to directly review the decision of the Arbitration Board. Instead, the Court was reviewing a decision of a reconsideration panel of the Labour Relations Board. The Court could only overturn the Labour Board’s decision if it concluded the decision was “patently unreasonable”, a standard which the judge acknowledged is high. The Court dismissed the City’s application on the basis that the high standard of “patent unreasonableness” had not been met.

The decision of the Court is not an endorsement of the decision of majority of the Arbitration Board or of the Labour Board decisions. The judge expressly stated in her reasons that she was precluded, regardless of whether she agreed or disagreed, from taking a position on the merits of the Arbitration Award or the Labour Board decisions. The Court acknowledged more than once that its role was only to review the reasoning in the preceding decision with reference to the high standard which was applicable.

While the City was aware of the hurdle it was facing, it is disappointed in the Court’s decision. The City remains of the view that termination is the appropriate outcome for egregious misconduct of this nature, particularly in circumstances where the trust necessary in the employment relationship has been lost.

 “The City will continue to set high standards of service, ethics, integrity and honesty for its employees. I believe our taxpayers would expect nothing less,” said Will Pearce, City of Vernon Chief Administrative Officer. “The conduct of these two individuals should not detract from the professionalism and integrity of the many proud employees of the City.”

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