I really need some advice about a serious workplace issue I'm having. I was hoping someone here would know something about employment law and human rights law in Canada, specifically Toronto.
I made a comment on the Fuck It Friday post about a serious issue I'm having at work and some kind GTers suggested I make a whole post about it to increase the chances of someone seeing it who has some good advice:
There are more details to this obviously than the few things I wrote there. I’ll try to give as much relevant detail as I can. This will take a minute though, I don’t blame you if you don’t want to read it all! Here we go:
Factors that complicate things:
How I came to get this job and be where I am now is not cut and dried. I am aware that in the first three months of employment, either party can sever ties with no repercussion for any reason or no reason at all (a trial period). After that, firing someone is subject to laws regarding grounds, etc.. My situation is strange. I have worked there twice. I began working there in fall of 2011 (I believe) and worked there for almost a year. I had to leave for another job (explanation following due to relevancy) and returned to work for them a few months ago. I did not receive an ROE the first time I left or was formally severed in any way as far as I know (this is evidenced by the fact that I was seamlessly paid out as if I had never left upon my return). So while this period of employment may have been less than three months (might, I need to look at the exact dates - it’s close), I had worked there previously and they were well aware of how I worked as an employee when I was brought back.
How I became the only woman to ever work in their kitchen / Why I left in the first place:
I am a chef and manager with 16 years of experience and a culinary diploma. I have worked as chef, pastry chef, restaurant manager and consultant. It was in my capacity working as a consultant that I came into this kitchen. I had been brought in by another consultant to help organize the kitchen operation systems. They needed a line cook and I needed work and in front of the consultant and myself, they had no excuse to say no.
It turned out that the chef and ownership were sexist assholes and would never have hired me under normal circumstances. I was put on all the crappy shifts. I was never scheduled to work with the chef. I didn’t mind this so much because, honestly, the rest of the staff were awesome people and great friends of mine still.
The sous chef and I became bffs. We loved to work together because shit got done. The line moved great, we were clean and hardworking. My hours were being cut this whole time though. Each week I would have fewer and fewer hours.
Someone would quit and I would plead that we just let me work the hours and hire a part timer. Another male would get hired and I would get fewer hours the following week again.
At the same time, we were all getting very pissed about special treatment being given others. One guy was so bad he simply didn’t show up to at least one shift every week, when he did come in he would be drunk. It was awful. He was kept on and kept on. A fight would break out, he would be fired or walk out and still not lose his job. Crazy.
In the front (where they keep the beautiful women), they hired this woman who turned out to be a mess. She was craaazy stereotypically beautiful (super thin, wore daisy dukes to work with a push up bra and butt tons of red lipstick, not shaming, just explaining so you understand the bias happening here). Her first week, one of the owners came in and gave her a $100 tip right in front of us all. She was a thief and a coke addict. Everyone knew it. She blatantly stole hundreds a week. People complained about it constantly. The bosses would tell us to ‘watch her’ at night and not let her have food without chits, etc. like we were her babysitter. Meanwhile, my friend [redacted] who was the very best, most responsible front house worker by a mile would wind up in tears all the time after being railed out constantly for skirts being too frilly or too many accessories or pretty much anything that had to do with her appearance. She has a tattoo on the back of her calf and one day it was showing and the one owner (same guy who gave the tip) took a fucking photo of her leg as she was going up the stairs!
These are just a few examples. I got a ton!
Anyway, the sous chef lamented that the chef was an asshole and a moron and couldn't tell a good worker if they hit him in the face with a hammer. He had his own problems, the chef threw his whole job on the poor guy. Eventually I had to leave. I had to pay my rent. I left on good terms. On my last day, they had a scheduling issue and I picked up a few shifts for them even after I was supposed to be gone.
How I came back to work:
Like I said, I had a lot of friends there and we had fun working together. The owners ended up opening a new location and the asshole chef went to work there. My sous chef buddy needed to refill the kitchen since he took over the old location and asked me back since he could give me full time and the asshole was gone. So I went back. A little while later, my buddy gets an offer to apprentice as an electrician. This is a great opportunity for him so he gives his notice. This causes the asshole owner to fly into a rage. He begins by sweet talking him. Offering him trips and telling him he’s opening new things and wants him to help. But my friend doesn't want to let this opportunity pass. He is convinced to stay on a bit longer, but the owner is rage now. He’s on him about everything. Yelling at him, telling him he’s nothing. Finally five days before my buddies last day, he takes him out back and screams at him for an hour and finally fires him. I wasn't there that day, but I am told everyone heard it. It was epic. He won’t let him back on the property but still hasn't mailed him his last check either. I want him to sue too frankly, but that’s his thing. I think he’s due at least his pay if not severance too.
They have never hired a woman in the kitchen in either of their two locations. They have never hired a man to work the front counter. They have men that run the counter, but only as managers. An unqualified inexperienced man was recently promoted from the kitchen to front house manager over experienced qualified women that exist in the front house department already. This caused a lot of complaining obviously from the women in front.
So here we are:
I was randomly taken off the schedule two weeks ago. I have been told several times during several hour long conversations that I am not fired. In fact he said “I’m not a coward, If I was going to fire you I would”. It originally seemed he was angry that I didn’t report the behaivior of another employee to him but we discussed that and I explained that I very much did report it, I just reported it to the manager on duty at the time, I didn’t realize I was supposed to call him directly (where have you ever worked where you are supposed to call the owner every time someone is late or whatever). Since we’ve worked that out though, he is now going on about how he saw me forget to wash my hands on the monitors. This is a very petty thing to take someone off the schedule for weeks for, especially considering the egregious things others get away with regularly but it’s all I can get out of him at this time.
I’ve had several conversations with him (which I recorded because this guy is so wtf) which have each lasted an hour or more and I still have no idea what this guy wants from me. He keeps saying we have to sit down and talk before I can come back to work, but I have no idea what else there is to talk about.
During these conversations he has made several statements regarding my thought that I am over qualified for my job and that I think I know more than him. I have never said either of these things, but his insistence that this is a thing leads me to believe he doesn’t like me because I’m a qualified woman. I hope I’m wrong, but you’ve just read all the evidence, so you be the judge.
In the meantime, two other men who had started working there two weeks before I was taken off the schedule, of course have no problem. One of them is the guy I was in trouble for not reporting in the first place. He is a drunk and is useless at work. He is routinely upwards of 45 minutes late. Others had been complaining about him too, that’s how this owner thought I hadn’t reported him in the first place. Since I’ve been gone from work, he has both been fired for drinking on the job and brought back to work. I went to get my last paycheck today and he was there working. I however, am still not working having done nothing wrong. Wtf.
Sooooooo… long post sorry…
I need advice. I have two problems:
1) Immediately, what do I do about my financial situation? Do I go to EI? What if I’m not eligible due to my employment situation (I was self-employed a lot this year), I will definitely not be allowed back to work if I go to them, the owners will be tipped off and so if I’m not eligible I’ll be screwed. I obviously need to find a new job regardless, but that takes time and if they call me back tomorrow, I have to go.
2) Do I have a decent human rights or labour board case or both? I’m soooo very sick of people getting away with this bullshit (in kitchen’s I've had to deal with so much bullshit) and I have a lot of evidence here that I've never had in other situations. Should I/can I nail him? How?
Thanks if you read this far. If you have any advice at all or have been in a similar situation, please let me know! I’ve seriously stumped here and I’m the one my friends usually go to for employment advice in the first place.