Safeway, Sobey’s and Sexual Harassment

In a day and age where the #MeToo movement has gained traction and many women are coming forward to bravely share their stories, I decided to do the same when I filed a BC Human Rights complaint against Sobey’s after a Safeway Canada employee decided to take it upon themselves to tell me what they deemed were “sexual dad jokes.” This particular employee has always been known to be out there, to to speak, with his conduct, and overtly friendly with customers — to the point where it’s annoying — but his conduct on this particular day crossed the line.

While neither Sobey’s, Safeway Canada or the employee dispute the fact that the sexually inappropriate joke was told, what I do dispute is the location of the store in which the employee claims the joke took place. It did not take place in the spice aisle, like the employee claimed — it took place in the yogurt aisle — and while the joke did make reference to the spice cumin (in which he pronounced it as “coming”), the spice itself never made an appearance. The employee also claims to have first asked me if I wanted to be told a joke. This also never happened. I was blocked by the employee from moving down the aisle, and was told a sexually inappropriate joke that I never consented to being told.

There has since been quite a bit of activity from one particular user on social media, who I won’t mention by name here, who seems to be twisting facts and repeating a nearly 5-year-old fabrication that I am some kind of “scammer” and “criminal” (when I don’t even have a criminal record, lol.) In fact, I have had an open police file in Calgary against this particular individual since early 2018 for his repeated stalking, harassment and fabrications. The Calgary Police have made repeated phone calls to this individual, have brought him in for questioning at their detachment, and even made personal visits to his place of residence; they’ve repeatedly told him to cease his conduct towards me, including cease all direct and indirect contact with me or those I communicate with — something he always assures them the authorities that he will do, only to follow through on that promise for a month or two at most then go right back to his old antics. He seemingly thinks he is above the law. I’ve been in regular contact with the officer handling my file and spoke to them as recently as Tuesday, and I have full confidence in the way things are being handled. So that’s all I’m going to say. For now.

But back to what really matters. The type of behaviour exhibited by this Safeway employee should not be tolerated. When you work in a professional environment, you are expected to act in a professional manner, and to just assume that anyone would accept otherwise is idiotic. The comments I’ve seen on social media not just about this/towards me, but in reference to other more recent sexual harassment cases, is disgusting. Imagine if that were you, your daughter, your sister, or someone you cared about. Would it be a “just a joke” to you then? Sexual harassment is no laughing matter, and if it means drawing more attention to this kind of abhorrent conduct from those like that of the Safeway employee, then I will take whatever is thrown my way — because at the very least, it’s drawing attention to the likes of men like these who think they can get away with this kind of disrespect — and I’m the absolute last person on earth who tolerates things like this. You won’t find me standing idly by. I’m opinionated, I’m unapologetic, and I quite frankly don’t care what anyone else thinks. Women should be able to go about their business without being sexually harassed. Period. You want to tell sexually inappropriate or offensive jokes? Do it amongst your friends. Not on your work hours, and certainly not with strangers.

In closing, I will say this. While the BC Human Rights Tribunal dismissed my complaint, they only did so based upon the fact that Sobey’s took the matter into their own hands and conducted an investigation — and while I didn’t initially agree that they did enough in terms of stepping up to the plate and taking action (which is the only reason why I filed with the Tribunal in the first place), they eventually did, so I have to give credit where credit’s due. Upon Sobey’s conducting their own investigation and speaking with the employee in question, he admitted to the sexually inappropriate conduct. They then reprimanded him and compensated me appropriately as a result — and I am more than happy with the outcome, because it wasn’t one I was expecting at all. Oh, and to those who are suggesting this was all about money? If that were the case, I would have gone after them for a whole hell of a lot more than what they gave me. I was actually privately contacted by 3 different lawyers wanting to turn it into something even bigger than what it was, but I refused. And the employee should be thanking his lucky stars that I didn't go that route, because from a legal standpoint this could have ended up very ugly for him in a much bigger and more publicized way. But at the end of the day, this wasn’t about making a quick buck or about getting anyone fired. It was about recognition, and I feel that was acheived here. At the very least, I hope Safeway and Sobey’s takes this as a learning tool and uses it to teach their employees — current and prospective — how to conduct themselves when working in customer service. Because this ain’t the way. And they’ve got MANY eyes and ears watching and listening very, very closely now — and not just mine.

Fact of the matter is this: The BC Human Rights Tribunal still recognized the employee’s conduct as sex discrimination, and to me that is the biggest win of all.

You can read the full Tribunal filing by clicking here.