British Columbia

Former Penticton fire chief claims PTSD, wrongful dismissal

The public was led to believe Penticton's former fire chief retired earlier this year. But in a B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit, Wayne Harold Williams claims the city pushed him out after he spent months battling post traumatic stress disorder.

Public was told he was retiring — but Wayne Harold Williams claims he was pushed out

Former Penticton Fire Chief Wayne Williams claims he developed PTSD as a result of a critical incident in February 2015. (CBC)

The public was led to believe Penticton's former fire chief retired earlier this year.

But in a B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit, Wayne Harold Williams claims the Okanagan city pushed him out after he spent months battling post traumatic stress disorder he suffered on the job.

'Traumatic critical incident'

In a notice of civil claim, the 56-year-old says he was wrongfully dismissed. He's now suing for damages including lost wages and vacation pay as well as compensation for mental distress and humiliation.

The city has not commented on the lawsuit, and none of Williams' allegations have been tested in court.

In his suit, the former chief lays out a series of events which began with his attending to a "traumatic critical incident" during the course of his duties in February 2015.

He says he made public his plans to retire in the following months, but set no firm date. Then in September 2015, Williams claims he went on short-term disability and filed a WorkSafeBC claim as a result of PTSD.

Williams says his physicians advised him to limit communication with the city but claims the city kept trying to communicate with him. A week after he went on leave, he claims he was stripped of access to the city's computers and forced to hand in his phones.

According to the claim, Williams says the city "made irrelevant and inaccurate objections" about him to WorkSafe, claiming he "has had performance issues" and was "insubordinate to his supervisor."

Forced to give back uniforms

The former chief says he initially told the city in November 2015 that he would retire on February 22, 2016. But then he says he changed his mind, and claims the city agreed that he would retire at a date to be determined once he was deemed fit to return to work by WorkSafeBC.

In December 2015, Williams says his Workers' Compensation claim was accepted and he started receiving benefits.

But he says the city terminated his employment on the February date he had previously picked to retire — despite the fact he had changed his mind. 

Williams claims he was asked to return his uniforms even though the city allegedly knew he "would be expected and entitled to wear (his) dress uniform on certain occasions as a retired member of the fire service in good standing."

Williams claims he was making a base salary of $118,734 plus benefits when he stopped working. He started working as deputy chief in October 2001 and was promoted to chief in 2005.

He claims he is also owed 302 hours of vacation and 22 hours of other time off.

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