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Human rights commission tosses BC woman's complaint over sexual 'dad joke'

Simran Singh Jan 09, 2019 3:57 pm

A complaint from a woman who says she was told sexualized “inappropriate dad jokes” while shopping at a Burnaby Safeway store has been dismissed by the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

According to the December 11 tribunal ruling, Brianne Duke and a family member were shopping at the Safeway store in Burnaby’s Kensington Square in mid-October 2017.

Duke says she was approached by an employee, who said: “I have inappropriate dad jokes to tell you.”

The ruling states that the employee proceeded to tell the following joke: “What does a late prostitute say? I’m cummin’!”

Duke alleges that he also told more jokes that “referenced sex.”

Woman requests gift card and apology

Shortly after the incident, Sobey’s — the company that operates Safeway — received a letter from a representative speaking on behalf of Duke.

The letter states that the jokes were “inappropriate and unprofessional” and that Duke was requesting a $250 grocery gift card and public apology on Safeway Canada social media accounts as compensation from Sobey’s.

Sobey’s replied asking for more details so they could investigate the incident. Duke’s representative provided a description of the employee but “no further particulars or details of the Inappropriate Joke Incident.”

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Sobey’s identified the employee who admitted to telling the joke. He said that he was cleaning the spice aisle at the time and asked a number of customers and staff if he could tell them an inappropriate joke. If they agreed, he would recite the joke about the prostitute and cumin, the spice.

The employee informed Sobey’s that this was the only joke of sexual nature he told and the others were just “dad” jokes.

Sobey’s disciplined the employee and within less than two weeks of the incident, the company sent Duke an emailed apology and offered her the $250 gift card that she requested.

Sobey’s claims that Duke “immediately asked for the gift card to be sent to her via mail, provided her address, and thanked Sobey’s for handling the matter.”

Complaint dismissed

A few days later, Duke emailed Sobey’s asking if the employee was still working at the Burnaby store because she no longer felt comfortable shopping at that location as long as he was employed there.

On the same day, Duke filed a complaint with the tribunal, stating that the behaviour by the Sobey’s employee “amounts to discrimination on the basis of sex contrary to s.8 of the BC Human Rights Code.”

The ruling states that Duke also inquired about how the employee was disciplined  and “when she was not told what it was, she assumed that no discipline had occurred.”

Tribunal member Catherine McCreary determined that Duke’s complaint was not valid.

“I am struck by the priority that Sobey’s gave to the complaint. It immediately investigated and found the facts alleged by Ms. Duke to have occurred,” McCreary stated in her decision.

“While it claims for the purposes of this matter that the events do not amount to discrimination under the Code, Sobey’s nonetheless gave Ms. Duke what she asked for; a gift card and an apology.”

McCreary dismissed the complaint. “It is up to Sobey’s as an employer to ensure that it does not have is employees engage in discrimination and the labour relations steps it takes to do so are not under review here,” she said.

“I have no reason to conclude that Sobey’s imposition of discipline was not appropriate in these circumstances.”

Duke responds

Duke reached out to Daily Hive and said that she was “satisfied with the tribunal’s outcome and was happy they at least still recognized the employee’s conduct as sex discrimination. ”

“Furthermore, I am glad the employee owned up to his conduct, and the disciplinary action in which Sobey’s took against said employee, and I accepted their offer of compensation,” she said via email.

Duke clarified that this incident was “never about money and was instead about having the conduct recognized as being wrong, which it was.”

“Had it been about money, I would have gone after them for much more than I did,” she said. “This type of behaviour should not be tolerated and women should not have to be subjected to it, especially not from someone working in what is supposed to be a professional environment when dealing with customers.”

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