MONTREAL – A waitress who was harassed after refusing sexual advances from the owner of a Montreal restaurant has been awarded $52,000 by a Quebec labour relations tribunal.
In a decision this month, the tribunal found Anissa Berrad had been humiliated and suffered psychological harassment in her workplace.
When she was first hired by Nick Triandos, the owner of Blanche Neige (Snow White) restaurant in January 2013, she said that he seemed to be a good boss.
But she soon noticed that he kissed his waitresses on the cheeks and neck and groped them.
Berrad testified that he did the same to her, and when she confronted him about his behaviour, he told her it was normal.
When she once asked him what would happen to a waitress who refused his advances, he told her he would harass the worker until she quit, the decision says.
A few months after she began work, Triandos touched her breast while driving her to the restaurant for an early shift, and she told him to stop, the ruling says. He began screaming and insulting her, she told the tribunal.
She said after that, things got worse and she was submitted to daily harassment and insults, with Triandos swearing at her and calling her “stupid” and “crazy.”
The decision says Berrad felt “humiliated, terrorized and fearful” about going to work every morning, but she kept the job because she had to pay rent and send money to her sick mother in Morocco.
Another ex-employee who testified before the tribunal, said she heard Triandos insulting Berrad and added that she was also treated the same way. She said she put up with the treatment for several months, but quit when she found another job.
When she consulted a doctor in 2014, Berrad was diagnosed with a major depression and was prescribed medication.
According to the decision, she asked Triandos to stop yelling at her, but his attitude only worsened and he told staff to stop talking to her.
On New Years’ Day 2015, Triandos came to the restaurant with cake and gave slices to all employees and customers except Berrad.
According to her testimony, Triandos then changed her working conditions and gave her a section of the restaurant that was less busy.
She would have to stay in her corner, and if she tried to greet customers, Triandos would yell at her and tell her not to talk to them. He also made sure they were not put into her section unless the restaurant was overflowing.
She wasn’t making any money from tips, and she testified that Triandos told her that her mother would “starve of hunger.”
On Jan. 23, 2015, Triandos told her not to show up for work the following day. When she asked if he was terminating her employment, he told her that he was just reducing her hours.
An argument broke out, and Berrad called police after Triandos became aggressive, declaring, “It’s my restaurant.”
When the officers arrived, Triandos told them that Berrad had struck him. She was told to collect her things and was fired in front of the officers.
About a month later, Triandos filed an assault complaint against her, but she was acquitted.
The $52,000 award includes $30,000 for moral and exemplary damages and $19,500 for lost wages.