Dismissed firefighter wins interim reinstatement with FENZ

Employee also has 'arguable case of unjustified dismissal'

Dismissed firefighter wins interim reinstatement with FENZ

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has ordered the interim reinstatement of a firefighter who was dismissed on the grounds of serious misconduct.

Russell Kinzett, a former station officer at Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ), is set to return on July 17 until the ERA is able to determine his substantive claim.

"Mr. Kinzett is to co-operate with FENZ regarding any arrangements necessary for his interim reinstatement," the ERA ordered. "The parties are encouraged to attend mediation to discuss any arrangements relevant to Mr. Kinzett's reinstatement and resolution of the issues between them."

Termination at FENZ

Kinzett was fired by FENZ in May 2024 following issues between him and two other firefighters. The former station officer first laid a complaint against the two other firefighters, who later lodged their own complaints against him.

An independent probe launched by FENZ found that Kinzett breached the organisation's policy on bullying, harassment, and victimisation due to repetitive sexual comments amounting to sexual harassment and bullying against the firefighters.

But one of the firefighters involved was also found to have breached FENZ's Standards of Conduct Policy by bullying Kinzett, according to the investigation.

The two firefighters remained with the FENZ, while Kinzett was dismissed, who appealed to the ERA for reinstatement.

Interim reinstatement granted

The FENZ strongly opposed the requested interim reinstatement, expressing concerns about the impact of Kinzett's return on both firefighters he had issues with. The organisation also expressed concern of a potential repeat behaviour from Kinzett.

But the ERA noted that a repeat behaviour seems "fairly minimal" given that Kinzett was able to demonstrate acceptable conduct over the last couple of years.

It added that the firefighters Kinzett had issues with working on opposite shifts.

"There is little to support that arrangement seeming problematic although I cannot rule out the prospect of further impact on them," the ERA said.

The authority added that it also considered if Kinzett should be required to move to another fire station to avoid contact with the firefighters he had issues with.

"This is a matter which I consider FENZ should be left with some discretion on," it ruled.

It further pointed out that Kinzett has an "arguable case of unjustified dismissal and for permanent reinstatement," according to the ERA.

Investigation meetings in November 2024 are currently being offered, which means Kinzett will need to wait until later this year or 2025 before his substantive claims are determined.

 

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