Facebook was atwitter Tuesday after the owner of Tony’s Pizza posted on the group’s page that the restaurant prefers to hire male pizza chefs.
“I would prefer to have a male in the kitchen, less distraction for the other male employees,” wrote Kathleen Lundgaard, who owns the joint with her husband Bo.
The post was in response to a woman who said she applied for a job but never heard anything back.
Commenters have accused the company of discrimination both on the Tony’s Pizza page and on their own pages.
The original post and many of the critical comments have been deleted, although screen shots have been shared widely.
Lundgaard spoke with the News Tuesday afternoon and said she regretted posting what she did.
“I apologize if it offended anyone. I didn’t think of it that way. It was just my preference, to prefer to have guys work with guys. It’s more of a camaraderie in the kitchen when it’s all guys.”
She said she has hired women to work in the kitchen before, but it hasn’t worked out.
“I’ve hired three females before, to work in the kitchen,” said Lundgaard.
“One of them didn’t even show up for her first shift, the second one showed up for one shift and she said it was too much work for her, and the third one, she worked for two days and the third day she was calling in hungover.”
Adjusting to the kitchen work can be challenging, she said.
“I could tell right away that there was going to be problems in the future. And I didn’t want to get hit with a sexual harassment thing after that.”
“It’s just been the norm that women don’t apply very often for kitchen work, and then whenever I did give them a chance, it’s bit me in the ass, pretty much.
“I just feel that our reputation should not be tarnished by an off-the-cuff comment that was never intended to hurt anybody.”
Amy-Rose Kemble, one of the Facebook commenters, said she found the post to be discriminatory to women but also degrading to men.
“All the men I know can work in any setting involving women or men and they’re not just out of control of themselves because there are women present.”
Kemble worries that female employees might not be treated with respect if they are seen primarily as a distraction to the men, she said.
“That makes me nervous for them, if that’s what they think of women or girls or the female form.”
Kemble said she recently took a course about human rights, and hopes this incident will help both employers and employees learn about their rights and responsibilities.
Blake Lepine posted a screen shot to his Facebook page that shows a letter he sent to the Yukon Human Rights Commission complaining about the incident.
He also told the News he is concerned for the restaurant’s female employees.
Lepine said he hopes his efforts will get a conversation started and encourage others to speak up.
“I’m hoping it’ll put it out there for people to know, there are people out there who are advocating for these rights.”
Heather MacFadgen, executive director of the Yukon Human Rights Commission, said she could not comment on this case specifically.
But generally, any unfavourable treatment in hiring based on sex is discrimination under Yukon’s Human Rights Act, she said.
The exception would be if hiring someone of a particular sex was a bona fide job requirement, said MacFadgen.
That could mean something like hiring a man to do cleaning or maintenance on a public men’s washroom if the washroom could not be closed during the work.
Under Yukon’s law, the commission can only investigate claims brought forward by someone who says they have personally been discriminated against, she said.
That’s not true in some other parts of Canada, where anyone can bring forward a complaint, or a commission can investigate of its own accord.
“But we don’t have those powers here,” said MacFadgen. “We’ve asked for them in law reform but that’s never happened.”
When a complaint is launched, the commission tries to resolve the issue between the parties, she said.
Failing that, the commission will investigate and produce a report, at which point the case will be dismissed, settled, or referred to an independent board of adjudication for a hearing.
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