By Alanna Rizza
Employees at Ryerson’s campus pub, the Ram in the Rye, have made claims about workplace harassment after a manager allegedly made inappropriate comments and used threatening language towards an employee.
The Eyeopener spoke to five employees at the Ram, who wished to remain anonymous for reasons of job security. The employees alleged the offending comments were made by newly hired restaurant manager, Tracey Thompson.
According to several staff members, during a shift Thompson told an employee she was going to “punch” them. One of the workers who spoke to The Eye said the alleged victim told Thompson the comment was workplace harassment. Thompson allegedly replied, “Yes it is,” and walked away.
“I would not entertain the idea that it was an actual viable threat, but that is inappropriate,” said an employee. “A manager can’t say that to an employee. You can’t hold power over someone and make a ‘joke’ like that.”
Four of the staff members who spoke with The Eye also said that Thompson made an inappropriate comment about the size of another employee’s breasts.
Employees have expressed additional concerns about Thompson’s attitude towards the Ram. While cleaning up during a late-night shift, one staff member recalls Thompson saying, “I fucking hate this place, everything is broken.”
“She makes very negative comments,” said the employee.
According to staff, issues with management began when Thompson replaced former restaurant manager, Rick Knapp.
“Tracey is not very nice. The way that she speaks to her staff is not in a welcoming way that makes you want to approach her,” an employee said. “If you voice your concerns, she makes you feel stupid or talks down to you.”
“We’re all scared for our jobs,” said another employee. “It’s very hard to find a flexible job as a student.”
Recent changes to the tip-out system have also angered employees. In many restaurants, servers are required to share a percentage of their tips with other support staff, including bussers, bartenders, hostesses and any other employee whose job assists the server. In the past, Ram servers were required to tip out 4 per cent. This year, a quarter of the tip out is going to kitchen staff.
Most kitchen staff at the Ram are full-time, full-salary employees with benefits, unlike front-end staff, who make slightly more than minimum wage. All Ram staff are unionized.
Staff said management did not address the tip out changes during the summer staff training. Instead, they were given a contract to read and sign.
“It’s our job obviously to read it,” said an employee. “When they did the training, they didn’t address any major change. And I would say that is a major change—if all of a sudden you’re taking money from someone and giving it to someone else.”
According to an email sent from the Ram management to staff, the reason for tipping out kitchen employees was to “push industry standards to a higher level.”
Amongst the confusion, employees are unclear about who specifically from the kitchen staff are being tipped.
“They’ve never once responded with a clear answer to who’s getting tipped out in the kitchen. Is it only part-time staff? Is it all kitchen staff? Is it all kitchen staff and for the two kitchen managers?”
The situation has left many employees not knowing where to go to express their concerns because they’re afraid of potential repercussions from Thompson and the rest of management.
“I feel very afraid to go speak to them. And I hate that I feel afraid to because I don’t know how they’re going to react,” said an employee.
Thompson refused to comment on the allegations. Instead, she requested that any inquiries be directed to Ryerson Student Campus Centre (SCC) general manager, Michael Verticchio, who oversees the operation of the Ram.
In an emailed statement, Verticchio that the SCC has not received any complaints about Thompson.
“There are several formal channels by which employees of the Ryerson Student Centre are able to make complaints of harassment as the Ryerson Student Centre takes all complaints and allegations of harassment seriously,” he wrote.
Ryerson Students’ Union vice president student life and events Harman Singh, who is on the board that governs services in the SCC, said he also hasn’t received any complaints from Ram employees.
He said he was “surprised” to hear about the allegations, and that a board meeting would be held in the next few days to discuss the concerns and the possibility of launching an investigation. “As of right now what the RSU executives (who are on the board) are going to do is start an investigation and see what exactly happened.”
It’s not just the staff who have noticed the changes. Several employees commented on concerns shared by customers regarding the environment at the Ram.
“People aren’t coming in because of all the shit that’s going on. Our regular customers—they know it too. They can see that people aren’t happy and things are fucked up,” said an employee.
“The Ram used to be a really great place to work and go to and it’s just not like that anymore.”