Grocery firing upheld after months of harassment

Bannister was “evasive, not forthright, inconsistent, deflecting” said arbitrator

Pornographic photos, inappropriate touching, sexualized comments and vulgar nicknames were all reasons not to approve a Calgary grocery store supervisor's grievance, after he was fired.

Arbitrator Alan Beattie rejected the firing as excessive in his decision and said, “It is hard to fathom what perverse pleasure a 51-year-old supervisor could get out of shocking and disgusting two young females who could, given their ages, be his daughters.“

The case detailed Brad Bannister's continuing actions against two 25- and 21-year-old clerks, while he acted as supervisor of a Co-op produce department.
Both witnesses reported separate incidents of harassment that went on for months but in December 2014 during a conversation, each woman realized that Bannister had treated them inappropriately.

Many times, the manager tried to adjust name tags located on the workers' chest. He was told repeatedly not to continue the actions but he persisted.

The manager also poked each woman in the breast with his pen, on a few occasions. 

The harassment also included a nude photo, sent via cell phone to both witnesses, that showed the manager naked in the shower. Bannister also displayed pornographic images of himself and his fiancée, now his wife, having sex. 

The manager repeately displayed various photos that were highly inappropriate at work.

The woman also reported at least five vulgar nicknames the manager used, repeating them out loud in the produce department, sometimes in front of customers. 

Bannister's said he thought the women didn't mind sexually- charged language. Both women spent time with him and his fiancée at their home and at various public events during the time of the actions. 

“I find it difficult to understand why we are having this conversation when it was all in a fun and joking manner and was completely mutual and consensual,” he said.

The grievor’s conduct constituted serious sexual harassment, said Beattie. 

“His evidence was not credible to an extraordinary extent and he expressed no apology or remorse (until the hearing). The complainants’ reluctance to confront the grievor and come forward with their complaint is common and understandable. The grievor ought to have known his conduct was totally unacceptable. Any friendship which had existed had ended after the first offensive incident of misconduct occurred and was no excuse for sexually harassing the complainants.”

Lack of credibility was critical in this case, which “in itself, particularly if it is regarding significant issues, generally leads to the dismissal of a grievance.” Bannister was “evasive, not forthright, inconsistent, deflecting” in interviews, said Beattie.

“By the time he got to the hearing, and recognized the extent of the case against him and that he had better be more forthright, he was more candid, but what he may have gained in that respect was undermined by his continuing attribution of blame to the complainants and his unfounded allegations of the complainants being motivated by retaliation. In the final analysis, I have to conclude, that he still does not fully get it.”

Beattie said there were no mitigating circumstances beyond Bannister’s nine-year employment. 

“His egregious conduct with young, vulnerable females who were under his supervision, and about which he was not (before the hearing) prepared to apologize or express any remorse, demands that his employment be terminated.” 

Reference: Calgary Co-Operative Association and the Union of Calgary Co-Operative Employees. Alan Beattie — arbitrator. Thomas Ross, Alison Adam for the employer. William Johnson, Roxane Jangi for the union. June 26, 2016.

Latest stories