Petrowest sued by former Site C manager
Petrowest Corp. is a defendant in a lawsuit from a former manager at the Site C dam. The manager, Kent Peyton, claims that he lost his job after an altercation over safety issues. Site C Dam
PETROWEST CORP. is facing a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of British Columbia from Kent Peyton, a man who claims that he was fired for no good reason from a management position at the Site C dam. Mr. Peyton says that he lost his $854,000-per-year job in a humiliating, callous and insensitive manner. The dismissal came after a disagreement over safety at the site, he claims.
The allegations are contained in a notice of claim that Mr. Peyton filed at the Vancouver courthouse on Oct. 4, 2017. In the suit, he explains how Petrowest lured him away from his job of nine ye ars as a senior vice-president at Flatiron Group to become the Site C dam construction director. His employment at Petrowest, as described in the suit, was to be for at least five years. Mr. Peyton’s pay during that term, with bonuses and other allowances, was to begin at $854,000 and reach $984,727 in the final year. Although he was a Petrowest employee, he actually worked for an affiliate, Peace River Hydro Partners, he says.
Mr. Peyton claims that he accepted the position in January, 2017, and resigned his job at Flatiron. At Site C, he had ultimate responsibility for constructing the dam, he says. This included making all high-level decisions related to the excavation process. He was also responsible for the health and safety of all those working on the dam, the suit states.
Mr. Peyton’s employment sounded rather grand, but it was also quite brief. On May 10, 2017, he was involved in what he calls an “incident.” He says that prior to that date the project director for the site had initiated construction practices that were dangerous and likely to lead to a safety issue. This was part of an effort to speed up a cofferdam excavation that was behind schedule.
According to Mr. Peyton, when he discovered these unsafe practices he gave immediate instructions to remedy the issue. He ordered crews that were working in a watertight pit to relocate to another part of the si te. These crews were in danger because they were working in unsafe proximity to each other, the suit states.
Mr. Peyton claims that the supervisor who received his instructions refused to follow them, and instead initiated an altercation. That altercation, as described in the suit, included abusive language. The supervisor also accused Mr. Peyton of striking him, an accusation that Mr. Peyton says was entirely untrue.
Two days after that incident, Petrowest chief executive officer Rick Quigley contacted Mr. Peyton, the suit states. Mr. Quigley told Mr. Peyton that he was not permitted to return to the job site. Later that same day, employees at the site received a memorandum which stated that Mr. Peyton was no longer employed there. Mr. Peyton says that Petrowest officially fired him on June 20, 2017, without engaging him in any substantial investigation of the incident.
As Mr. Peyton sees things, this was unfair to him. “By failing to engage Mr. Peyton in any investigation of the circumstances of the Incident ... and by announcing the termination of his employment to all employees without any prior notice to Mr. Peyton, the Employer failed to discharge its obligation of good faith and fair dealing,” the suit states. Moreover, Peace River Hydro fired Mr. Peyton in a “callous and insensitive” manner, according to the suit.
Mr. Peyton further claims that he is entitled to aggravated and punitive damages. He says that Peace River Hydro caused him public humiliation with the way that it ended his employment. To that end, the suit contains many adjectives to describe his firing, calling it “harsh, vindictive, reprehensible, and malicious,” among other things.
Mr. Peyton is seeking appropriate damages, court costs and interest. Vancouver lawyer Veronica Rossos of Singleton Urquhart LLP filed the suit on his behalf. In addition to Petrowest, the suit names Peace River Hydro as a defendant.
For Petrowest, the lawsuit from Mr. Peyton is just one of its problems. On Aug. 11, 2017, the company said that it had received notice from its partner in Peace River Hydro that the company’s interest in the project was being terminated. This was because Petrowest had only paid $2.5-million of a $15-million working capital contribution.
The company also received a delisting notice from the Toronto Stock Exchange on Aug. 21, 2017. The TSX said that the company no longer met listing requirements. The stock, which had a 52-week high of 33 cents, was last at nine cents.
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