Cafe owner at center of bullying allegations steps down to assess the future



The controversial owner of a Christchurch cafe at the center of dozens of allegations of bullying by former staff is temporarily stepping down from the company to assess his future.

Sam Crofskey, owner of C1 Espresso on High St, has faced a deluge of complaints from former employees in recent days after college student Levi Painter posted her experiences online at the coffee shop.

Former employees have accused him of bullying, not allowing compulsory breaks, asking inappropriate questions in interviews, and discouraging sick days.

Former C1 Espresso employees have filed numerous complaints about owner Crofskey.

ALDEN WILLIAMS / Stuff

Former C1 Espresso employees have filed numerous complaints about owner Crofskey.

Crofskey has argued that the claims are mostly unsubstantiated and said he would like to address his concerns through the “appropriate channels.”

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But on Sunday evening he said he “had decided to take a long break to reflect on the talks of the past week.”

Crofskey, who has owned the cafe for 17 years, said on C1’s Facebook page, “During this time, I will seek professional advice on workplace culture and assess whether I fit into the business.

“I’ve always appreciated our team and I want everyone who works with us to feel valued. This has been a hugely troubling time for everyone.

“While I’m gone the company is run by my manager Dale. Dale has been with us for eight years and she always does a great job.

“The past week has been a very challenging time for our 25 employees, some of whom have had very negative comments.

“Our employees will continue to do an excellent job of delivering the coffee, food and service that C1 has become famous for, and we look for ways to help them through this difficult time.”

STUFF

Former C1 Espresso employee Raya Sharples talks to Stuff about her time at Sam Crofskey.

Crofskey is a former Canterbury President of the Restaurant Association and has initiated the Christchurch Hospitality Awards. Last year he was admitted to the Restaurant Association hall of fame.

Ahead of its announcement, unions and anti-bullying advocates said they would follow legal paths for C1 Espresso employees.

Painter’s discussion of her experience on an online student bulletin board on Wednesday drew more than 1,000 responses and led to the creation of the C1 boycott and protest group on Facebook, which now has more than 3,000 members.

One of the administrators, Ellsie Coles, liaises with unions and other attorneys to investigate possible legal avenues.

Ellsie Coles, left, and Ailish Sullivan started the C1 Boycott and Protest Group after widespread allegations of bullying in the cafe.

STACY SQUIRES / STUFF / Stuff

Ellsie Coles, left, and Ailish Sullivan started the C1 Boycott and Protest Group after widespread allegations of bullying in the cafe.

Although she never worked in the cafe, she has worked in the hospitality industry and was aware of the allegations long ago.

Former C1 employees will meet with union organizers through Zoom on Monday to walk legal paths.

Union representatives say there are several legal paths former and current employees can take.

One is through personal complaints, which can result in individual payments.

Reasons for such complaints include unwarranted dismissal, intimidation, “unjustified measures that disadvantage the employee” and failure to comply with legal requirements for agreed working hours.

However, claims must be made within 90 days of the promotion taking place.

Applying for an investigation to the Labor Inspectorate is another legal avenue, which could revolve around staff’s claims that they were only given a 20-minute break for eight-hour shifts and punished for taking sick leave by being removed from the roster.

Violations can lead to heavy fines.

Raise The Bar founder Chloe Ann-King says there are many legal avenues former employees can pursue.

David White

Raise The Bar founder Chloe Ann-King says there are many legal avenues former employees can pursue.

A union advocate has also suggested that the Department of Business, Innovation and Employment request information from the company about annual vacation payments to former staff to identify discrepancies.

Former C1 staff will discuss options Monday with Chloe Ann-King, founder of the hospitality union and advocacy group Raise the Bar.

Maryline Suchley, Christchurch’s director of anti-bullying CultureSafe NZ, is also working with Coles to help former and current employees and believes the labor inspectorate may find the allegatines hard to ignore.

“I think this case is exceptional. I can’t figure out how he behaved this way for so long, although it may have to do with the age group he’s targeting, which often doesn’t know their rights, ”she said of the allegations against Crofskey.


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