Re­ply all

A Freak sit­u­a­tion


In re­sponse to the ar­ti­cle “Labour con­cerns at Freak Lunch­box,” it is ap­par­ent that we need to tell our side (City story by Ja­cob Boon, De­cem­ber 20). This busi­ness has sup­ported many fam­i­lies over the past 18 years; five of our six cur­rent man­agers are rais­ing or ex­pect­ing chil­dren. Of course we could not have made it this far without the con­tri­bu­tions of our team, and we are ex­tremely grate­ful for the hun­dreds of em­ploy­ees we have had over the years. As busi­ness own­ers we must some­times make dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions in the in­ter­est of our busi­ness and the peo­ple who work for us

We take se­ri­ous labour con­cerns to heart and act swiftly when we are in er­ror. We are not per­fect, we have made many mis­takes along the road, but in this case there were no ac­tual valid in­frac­tions. We do not feel this was a news­wor­thy event but is sim­ply about an em­ployee who dis­agreed with their ter­mi­na­tion and con­tin­ues to seek jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for it.

The staff mem­ber who was let go was a part-time/ca­sual em­ployee who we reg­u­larly ac­com­mo­dated with long-term per­sonal leaves from her po­si­tion. Prior to be­ing re­lieved of her duty she had re­ceived a writ­ten warn­ing for drink­ing al­co­hol on work premises, de­spite a no-al­co­hol pol­icy im­ple­mented, out­lined and signed in the terms of her em­ploy­ment agree­ment. The Coast was made aware of this warn­ing but chose to omit this from pub­li­ca­tion. ( Ed­i­tor’s note: Dur­ing re­port­ing, Smith men­tioned the al­co­hol in­ci­dent but only af­ter ask­ing for it to be off the record, and that it not be pub­lished in the orig­i­nal ar­ti­cle.)

Although all of our stores have man­agers, as own­ers we are in the flag­ship store on a daily ba­sis. Not once did she ap­proach us per­son­ally to dis­cuss any­thing that was of con­cern to her de­spite her fre­quent in­ter­ac­tions with us.

The de­ci­sion to let this in­di­vid­ual go with sev­er­ance and no hard feel­ings was based on her morale is­sues and the neg­a­tive work en­vi­ron­ment she had con­trib­uted to. In no way was it based on any le­git­i­mate labour board con­cerns. One of her “labour con­cerns” was a re­quest for anti-fa­tigue mats for a job that specif­i­cally re­quires you to not stand still, and to be out on the floor in­ter­act­ing with cus­tomers or main­tain­ing prod­uct fresh­ness. (The ad­vice from the in­spec­tor was for our staff to get bet­ter shoes.)

To com­pare our ac­tions with those of the Smil­ing Goat is down­right of­fen­sive. We pay our staff on time and well. (The em­ploy­ees men­tioned in the ar­ti­cle were both be­ing paid well above min­i­mum wage.) We at Freak Lunch­box aim to pro­vide a clean, en­joy­able work en­vi­ron­ment. We have store man­agers who are avail­able to the em­ploy­ees and reg­u­larly re­view and pro­vide feed­back on per­for­mance. They work in a candy store sur­rounded by our per­sonal de­tails, hand­painted art­work, happy cus­tomers and gen­eral pride of own­er­ship that has pro­pelled us from a small two-per­son com­pany to a small 40+ per­son com­pany.

We feel the re­ten­tion rate of our staff in this in­dus­try is ex­cep­tional, and the happy ex­em­ploy­ees far out­weigh those who feel they were wrong­fully dis­missed. It is im­por­tant for em­ploy­ees to have a voice when they are wronged, but we stand be­hind our de­ci­sion in this case. —Erin Sch­wanz and Jeremy Smith, Freak Lunch­box

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