(Photo contributed)

(Photo contributed)

Westbank First Nation being sued for wrongful dismissal by former senior staffer

WFN denies claim in defence filing

A former senior staff member of the Westbank First Nation (WFN) is suing the band for wrongful dismissal.

In court documents filed Oct. 21, 2021, Rafael Ladron De Guevara claims that on Aug. 26, 2021 he was told his employment with WFN was terminated with cause, effective immediately. The suit states De Guevara began working for WFN in April 2006. Before that, he was an elected member of Chief and Council from 2000 to 2004.

The documents claim another senior employee of WFN made a workplace harassment complaint against De Guevara in April last year. Two weeks later, on May 6, De Guevara said he was placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. He claims until May 2021, he was never the subject of any discipline by WFN and was not provided with any warning his performance or conduct was unacceptable or that his employment was in jeopardy.

The court filing claims no details were provided to De Guevara regarding the complaint, stating the investigation would take two to three weeks, and he would be provided the findings of the investigator. The filing further states the investigation was not completed until late August 2021, approximately 16 weeks after De Guevara was placed on leave, and that he was not provided sufficient information regarding the allegations.

He denies any conduct that would amount to just cause for termination. De Guevara alleges as a result of WFN’s allegations of just cause, he has been unable to find alternate employment in his field.

WFN’s response in defence to De Guevara’s allegations, filed on Nov. 30, 2021, claims that his conduct towards other employees, in particular a senior director, ultimately resulted in his discipline and termination. The band’s filing claims the director referenced 10 separate incidents between December 2020 and April 2021, where she alleged she was bullied and harassed. WFN denies De Guevara’s claim he was not provided with sufficient information regarding the complaint. In its response, the band stated it retained an independent third-party investigator who interviewed 14 witnesses, including the director and De Guevara, and also reviewed documents and text messages.

De Guevara is seeking general, aggravated, and punitive damages as well as costs. WFN is asking the claim be dismissed, with costs payable to the band.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

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