NIAGARA FALLS, ON, April 23, 2019 /CNW/ - Rainforest Cafe workers in Niagara Falls – out on strike since April 7 – are bravely coming forward to share their experiences of sexual assault at work. Workers believe that recent incidents of sexual assault were grossly mishandled by their employer Canadian Niagara Hotels Inc.
Rainforest management received complaints of sexual assault from three staff members regarding the same co-worker. While their assailant was permitted to continue working, complainants say they were victim-shamed. A young woman was subjected to inappropriate sexual touching amounting to assault six times in three hours and says that she was made to feel bad for bringing it up. She was told by her manager that the other party "couldn't sleep at night" and that she should speak to him.
Another worker, Brandi Reale, was told by the same manager about how bad her assailant felt and was encouraged to accept his apology. She asked the manager why this person was still working at the company, when other people had been fired for lesser things like using a cellphone in the workplace.
When their co-worker Shaun Watson met with management to tell them that the complainants did not feel safe at work, he was told that the issue had been "taken care of". He was also told that the company didn't want the worker who had committed the assaults "feeling uncomfortable" and was promptly sent out of the office.
The mishandling of workplace sexual assaults was a major issue that contributed to the strike vote on April 6. The employee in question was only terminated by Canadian Niagara Hotels five days into the strike, after the issue was raised publicly in the media.
"Does Canadian Niagara Hotels condone this type of behaviour? Managers cannot be allowed to sweep issues like sexual assault under the rug. We are disturbed that the worker who committed these sexual assaults was only let go after the issue became public knowledge," says union representative Mike Ward. "Workers want a union contract so they can return to a workplace where they feel safe and have real protections."
"The Rainforest Cafe must respect the law, pure and simple," says Ontario Federation of Labour Secretary-Treasurer Patty Coates. "In 1987, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the employer must provide a workplace free of sexual harassment. They must provide a safe workplace, do a proper investigation, and take corrective measures. Human rights are not privileges. It is time for the Rainforest Cafe to meet its obligations by stopping sexual harassment in its workplace, and bargaining a collective agreement with its workers as the law requires."
To view a video testimonial of the workers' experiences, visit the Workers United Canada Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/WorkersUnitedCanada
SOURCE Workers United Canada Council
For further information: Ryan Hayes, Communications, 416-997-3385 or [email protected]