NEWS

Domino's ex-workers in North Vancouver fear for safety

02/13/2015 09:59 EST | Updated 04/15/2015 05:59 EDT
Two former employees of a Domino's franchise in North Vancouver, B.C. claim their bosses made violent threats during a confrontation about missing paycheques last week.

Dakota Gervais-Brulhart and his coworker Blake Dearman say they are now afraid for their safety.

"They're yelling about death threats, saying they're going to come to our house tonight and cut his [Dearman's] head off," said Gervais-Brulhart. 

Gervais-Brulhart claim their bosses also said "they're going to slit our throats and murder us and we don't know who we're messing with." 

While the former employees have filed complaints with police and the Employment Standards Branch of B.C., nothing has been proven and the bosses deny the allegations.

"I want to feel safe in my own house for one, because neither of us has slept ... I have to sleep with a knife next to my bed at all times now, all the doors are locked. He [Dearman] hasn't even left the house," said Gervais-Brulhart.

Both the employees claim they have been intimidated and bullied while on the job. At times, they brushed off their bosses' comments as jokes.

"One time they said if you don't learn the tools of the trade, you're gonna get shot ... just like little things like that. I just passed it on like they were just weird or something," Gervais-Brulhart said. 

"But you know when they gave death threats at the end, it made me believe all the other things they'd been saying."

Backhanded, kicked in the back, employees allege

Gervais-Brulhart​ said he's still owed more than $1,500 in past wages and claims he sometimes went as long as four weeks without getting a paycheque.

Last week the two said they confronted their employers about missing wages. That's when tensions flared and they claim the situation escalated into violence and threats.

"He [one of the operators] grabbed me by the sleeve and pulled me to the hallway and slapped him [Dearman] in the face, backhanded him, then he kicked me in the back," said Gervais-Brulhart. 

The RCMP confirm death threats are part of its ongoing investigation but it's too early to determine whether any charges will be laid.

The operators told CBC News the allegations are not true, but declined to elaborate.

Domino's launches internal probe

Meanwhile, Domino's head office said it's investigating the practices at the pizza joint. The company and its lawyers met with the operators Friday.

Domino's said it isn't aware of any complaints against these franchise operators in the past. However, CBC News has learned there has been one previous complaint with the Employment Standards Branch at that location which was subsequently resolved.

The head office said it's taking the matter very seriously. 

Noting these were only allegations, Jeff Kacmarek, vice-president of Domino's marketing and product development, said on Thursday "quite honestly, it turned my stomach. This is not the way we run our business." 

"It's a global brand, nearly 400 stores located across the country, thousands of franchisees."

While none of the allegations have been proven in court, Dearman and Gervais-Brulhart have filed complaints with the Employment Standards Branch of B.C. on work pay in addition to calling the police. 

"They'd just flat out lie and say pay day is next week. You'd say 'pay day is today and I've been keeping track of it. I haven't been paid in two weeks' and they'd say 'it's next week,'" said Gervais-Brulhart.

In his complaint, Gervais-Brulhart​ accused the owners of the pizza joint of not following B.C. employment standards.

In addition to not issuing pay stubs, Gervais-​Brulhart claims there were no meal breaks, even on shifts of more than eight hours.

The complaint also suggests the owners took money from the tip jar, instead of distributing it among employees.

Gervais-​Brulhart’s complaint also alleged that employees were penalized for mistakes by having their pay docked. 

The complaint said "employee's wages [were] deducted for mistakes in orders (pay for any pizzas that were incorrect or for prank phone orders), dropped onions[, etc]." 

The complaint also alleged the owners bullied employees with name calling and intimidation. 

Difficult for exploited workers to come forward: advocacy group

The B.C. Federation of Labour said if any allegations of mistreatment are proven, Domino's Canada needs to take immediate action.

"This is a franchise situation, so if the allegations are true, the parent company should take away the franchise," said Irene Lanzinger, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour.

"Unfortunately we see this numerous times that workers are exploited and they have nowhere to go," she said.

Lanzinger says it's often difficult for young people or new Canadians to come forward with complaints.

"We need people to speak out when they are being exploited," she said.

Where to turn for help

There are resources available for them such as the Employment Standards Branch which handles wage issues; WorkSafeBC that has anti-bullying rules; and the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal which deals with discrimination.

For young people looking for confidential advice, EARN (Employee Action and Rights Network)— which is funded by the B.C. Federation of Labour — also offers assistance.

Do you have anything to share on this story? Reach out to the reporter bal.brach@cbc.ca.

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