Former Grand Forks fire chief suing city for wrongful dismissal

Former Grand Forks fire chief suing city for wrongful dismissal

Dale Heriot was fired in July 2019 after his department was investigated for safety, bullying issues

Former Grand Forks fire chief Dale Heriot is suing the City of Grand Forks for wrongful dismissal, after being fired from the position in July 2019.

Heriot’s civil claim, filed in January to BC Supreme Civil Court, alleges that the city mishandled and misrepresented a human resources investigation into the Grand Forks fire department that resulted in him losing his job. Heriot also claims that his termination “constituted an arbitrary, willful, and fundamental breach of [his contract with the city],” and ultimately his wrongful dismissal.

The investigation

In March 2019, a volunteer member of Grand Forks Fire/Rescue lodged a complaint of bullying and harassment with the city and later with WorkSafeBC, to look into safety practices within the department. The city contracted an external HR investigator to look into allegations made by the firefighter.

Heriot’s claim against the city alleges that he was never told about the scope of last year’s investigation.

“The Plaintiff [Heriot] was never advised during the investigation that the investigation would include wide-ranging inquiry of his fitness to perform his role as Fire Chief,” the claim reads. “He was also never advised that the outcome of the investigation may result in discipline or termination of his employment.”

The city’s response, filed in February, says that Heriot was told by the investigator in March 2019 that the investigation “would address matters beyond the Complainant’s bullying and harassment complaint, extending more broadly to the work environment within leadership in the Fire Department, […] friction points within the Fire Department, the Fire Department safety culture and other matters of concern to members of the Fire Department.”

“The Investigation was in the nature of a workplace assessment, rather than a specific inquiry focused on the bullying and harassment complaint,” the city’s response reads.

Fallout from HR findings

After the HR investigation wrapped in May and Heriot went on paid administrative leave, the city reportedly told him that it was planning on changing the fire department’s leadership structure, “as a result of the investigator’s findings that [Heriot] engaged in bullying and harassing behaviour.”

According to Heriot’s claim, the changes would have meant that he could remain as fire chief but be stripped of some of his duties and would no longer have day-to-day command of the department.

“The anticipated changes to the Fire Chief’s duties were very distressing to [Heriot],” the former fire chief’s claim reads, noting that in fire departments, “a person’s rank is more meaningful than it might otherwise be for a civilian employment position.”

The Response to Heriot’s claim says he did not accept the anticipated changes to his position, adding that he “failed or refused to provide constructive feedback […] in respect of the proposed changes to his duties and responsibilities.” It was on those grounds, the city says, that Heriot was terminated without cause, effective July 23, 2019, and was entitled to 12-months’ salary upon dismissal.

Heriot is seeking damages for breach of contract, as well as punitive and aggravated damages, costs and interest in compensation for not being provided sufficient notice of his firing, for his expenses, and for claimed damage to his reputation and mental wellbeing.


@jensenedw
Jensen.edwards@grandforksgazette.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

firefightersGrand Forks

Just Posted

The Aquatic Centre at Western Financial Place.
Cranbrook Aquatic Center to close temporarily

The annual shutdown of the Aquatic Center at Western Financial Place will begin earlier than scheduled this year and does not have a defined end date at this time.

The latest EKASS survey confirms a steady decline in substance use among EK youth over the years. (image compilation via Pixabay)
Latest survey shows steady decline in adolescent substance use over the years

Starting in 2002, the survey has been conducted every two years to monitor changes in substance use patterns, attitudes and behaviors amongst East Kootenay youth.

The ‘official’ opening of 2nd Edition Coworking in downtown Fernie, a project five years in the making by the Fernie Chamber of Commerce. Left to right: Executive Director of the Fernie Chamber Brad Parsell, incoming President of the Fernie Chamber Norm Fraser, outgoing President of the Fernie Chamber Anita Palmer, and Mayor of Fernie Ange Qualizza. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Fernie Chamber cuts the ribbon on 2nd Edition

The new coworking space in Fernie is now ‘officially’ open, but has been operating since early 2021

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Sparwood Mayor David Wilks with the new AED SaveStation installed at the Sparwood Leisure Centre. (Contributed by District of Sparwood)
Sparwood installs public AED

The SaveStation was installed thanks to a grant from CP Rail

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

Most Read