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Ninety-day administrative driving suspension for impaired driving was not just cause to fire Assistant Fire Chief

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An Assistant Fire Chief has won his wrongful dismissal suit after he was fired following a 90-day administrative driving prohibition for impaired driving while off-duty.

The Assistant Fire Chief was on the way home from a “date night” with his spouse when he was pulled over for suspected impaired driving.  He failed two roadside breathalyzer tests and received the administrative driving suspension. He immediately advised the Fire Department and was distraught and remorseful. 

Although the Fire Chief and human resources advisor advised against firing, and a number of firefighters signed a letter asking that the Assistant Fire Chief not be fired, the fire department’s Chief Administrative Officer was adamant and went ahead and dismissed him. 

The court held that the fire department did not have just cause for dismissal.  The Assistant Fire Chief was off-duty and he was not representing the fire department at the time.  While the truck he was driving belonged to the fire department, it was not marked as such.  There was no public knowledge of his administrative driving prohibition.  His conduct was not of the same “moral reprehensibility” as in other cases where employees’ off-duty conduct was just cause for dismissal.  The Assistant Fire Chief was not the public face of the fire department.  The other career firefighters in the fire department had not lost confidence in him.  There was no criminal charge, but rather he received a 90-day driving suspension.  In conclusion, the court decided that his off-duty conduct was not incompatible with the faithful discharge of his duties or otherwise prejudicial to the interests or reputation of the fire department. 

In the end, the court awarded the employee five months’ salary as provided for in his employment contract.

Klonteig v West Kelowna (District), 2018 BCSC 124 (CanLII)