VICTORIA – Two former employees are suing a grocery store on Vancouver Island, alleging another worker surreptitiously took intimate photos of them and posted them online without consent.
Jennifer Burke and Mallory Colter filed a proposed class-action lawsuit this week against Red Barn Markets and former assistant manager Matthew Schwabe, alleging he installed a video recording device in the washroom of the chain’s location in Saanich between 2009 and 2014.
The notice of civil claim alleges that intimate images taken in the washroom were uploaded online, including to “one Russian website marketed as a ‘revenge pornographic website.’ ”
Screenshots from the women’s Facebook pages were paired with the images “so that viewers of the website could identify the young women,” the notice of civil claim alleges.
It also alleges the company failed to properly train and supervise employees and management, and did not provide the women with a safe and secure work environment.
The notice of claim says Schwabe was an assistant manager in the produce department and is the son of one of the owners of Red Barn Markets and Red Barn Companies.
“Early in his employment, Matthew Schwabe was involved in workplace incidents that would likely have resulted in the termination of his employment at the West Saanich Red Barn had he not been the son of one the owners of the Red Barn Companies,” it alleges.
Red Barn Markets did not respond to a request for comment, and Schwabe could not be reached.
Statements of defence have not been filed. None of the allegations in the notice of civil claim have been proven in court.
The document describes the alleged actions as “malicious and reprehensible.”
“It departed to a marked degree from ordinary standards of decent behaviour and showed a callous disregard for the privacy interests of the plaintiffs and the proposed class members,” it says.
Burke was 15 when she began working at the store in 2007 and left in December 2012. Colter was 17 when she was hired in mid-2012 and left about two years later.
In February 2016, both women were alerted to the photos by the Saanich Police Department, the notice of civil claim says.
The police department said Wednesday it is investigating a grocery store employee in Saanich. They would not provide any other details about the employee or the store.
Sgt. Jereme Leslie said the investigation began in 2016 and officers have identified and contacted all of the potential victims, executed search warrants and gathered evidence.
He said an arrest has been made but charges have not yet been laid.
The notice of civil claim says police showed the women images taken from the Russian website, including photos of one of them partially undressed alongside her full name and a photo that appeared to come from her Facebook page.
Both women reviewed the website and identified a number of other potential victims, the court document says.
The lawsuit alleges the women have suffered trauma and emotional and mental distress as a result of the alleged voyeurism.
“They have been deeply disturbed by these events, have ongoing trust issues and fear that the images will continue to circulate,” the notice of civil claim says.
They women are seeking an injunction preventing the images from being shared and unspecified damages.