Mission Fire Rescue Service holding a training session in 2016. Bob Friesen photo.

Firefighter’s human-rights complaint against District of Mission dismissed

District had just reason for firing man for insubordination, B.C. Human Rights Tribunal found

A firefighter’s human-rights complaint against the District of Mission was dismissed by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

Kevin O’Beirne, a paid-on-call firefighter, claimed he was fired by his superiors in August, 2018, for a perceived medical disability stemming from a captain’s report made after a training exercise.

On Nov. 17, the tribunal said the firing was justified on grounds of insubordination, after he failed to produce a physician’s note clearing him for active duty, after months of requests and warnings.

“A nexus between [O’Beirne’s] perceived disability and his suspension and termination of employment is mere speculation in light of the district’s reasonable, non-discriminatory explanation of insubordination,” the tribunal found.

In March, 2018, O’Beirne was participating in a fully-geared search and rescue drill as part of the Mission Fire Rescue Service’s (MFRS) bi-annual training drills.

A captain noticed O’Beirne take off his mask, appear short of breath and look sweaty and pale – he subsequently reported the incident to the fire chief.

O’Beirne claimed he was not short of breath, but had the flu and did not want to vomit in the mask. He said after a rest, he completed the drill without medical aid.

At a meeting later that day, the district said they would provide him with a form for a physician to clear him for duty – O’Beirne denies this.

He claims his superiors agreed that if he completed the next training exercise in June, then “everyone would be satisfied that my health and fitness was not an issue and that would be the end of the matter” – the district denies this.

A few days later, the fire chief provided him an OG 5.24 form. This sets out MFRS policy on medical clearance, and had a physician’s form attached.

O’Beirne said the form was “suspicious” as the policy was updated two days after the March incident, and claimed it was created to target him for a perceived disability.

The district provided the 2013 and 2009 versions of the same document to show nothing new was added relating to medical clearance.

O’Beirne’s blood pressure was taken prior to the June training exercise, which showed levels over the acceptable limits, but he disputed the accuracy of testing.

He claimed he had another blood test afterwards, in the presence of a captain and said he was in the acceptable limits. The captain said he can’t recall any test.

By July 17 – after numerous meetings, warnings, and communications – O’Beirne was suspended from attending emergency incidents, pending the medical clearance forms.

The letter stated that if he wasn’t cleared by Aug. 14, they would assume he had chosen to resign.

In the following weeks, O’Beirne sent two letters that were “aggressive, inappropriate and insubordinate,” according to the district, disputing their authority to require him to get medical clearance.

He requested a copy of the original incident report, the minutes of the March meeting, investigation notes, and proof of the district’s authority.

The district provided the policies relating to the fire chief’s authority, the reason why a doctor’s note was necessary and extended the deadline to Aug. 17.

O’Beirne delivered a letter on Aug. 19 stating he had the note, but wouldn’t submit it until he received the previously requested documentation.

But by Aug. 20, the district had still not received anything clearing him for medical service, and he was fired the next day.

The day after he was fired, he provided a physician’s note dated Aug. 17 clearing him for duty, but the district did not reconsider his termination.

O’Beirne, who had served as an on-call firefighter for 27 years, said the district’s “draconian step” of firing him was unwarranted as he had been compliant throughout, he was already suspended and the deadlines were arbitrary.

He claimed his superiors ousted him under the guise of insubordination because they perceived him to have a disability.

“There is no reasonable prospect that Mr. O’Beirne will succeed in establishing that his suspension or termination of employment constitutes discrimination,” the tribunal found.

“The District repeatedly explained its need for him to provide medical information.”

The tribunal stated other claims, such as wrongful dismissal, are best suited for other courts.


@portmoodypigeon
patrick.penner@missioncityrecord.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Mission

Just Posted

Vehicles line up for the Greater Vancouver Drive-Thru Food Truck Festival at the Chilliwack Coliseum parking lot on March 27. The touring event comes to Abbotsford this weekend, May 15 and 16. (Photo: Jenna Hauck/Chilliwack Progress)
Drive-Thru Food Truck Festival takes place in Abbotsford

Event runs May 15 and 16 at Tradex, featuring 12 trucks each day

Mandarin Garden in Abbotsford had two event tents set up for outdoor dining. One of the tents, valued at more than $5,000, was stolen early Friday morning (May 14). (Submitted photo)
UPDATE: Dining tent stolen from Abbotsford restaurant is located

Owner says it would have cost more than $5,000 to replace the rented event tent

Chilliwack prolific offender Brian Stephan was wanted in late April 2021, but was arrested and charged after allegedly stealing a vehicle in Mission on May 5 and resisting arrest in Chilliwack. (RCMP file)
Wanted Chilliwack prolific offender arrested yet again

Brian Stephan allegedly stole a vehicle in Mission, committed a B&E, resisted arrest in Chilliwack on May 5

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

The new emergency department at Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre is slated to open June 8. (Screenshot from Province of BC video)
Expanded emergency department slated to open in June at Abbotsford Regional Hospital

Project cost $15 million with an additional $1.25 million donated for equipment

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Mike Farnworth, pre-pandemic. (File photo)
Surrey Police recruitment not distracting cops from shootings, Farnworth says

‘That’s simply not the case,’ Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth told the Now-Leader on Friday

Police are at Ecole Mount Prevost Elementary but the students have been evacuated. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Gardener finds buried explosives, sparking evacuation of Cowichan school

Students removed from school in an ‘abundance of caution’

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

Most Read