Toyota Leaderboard July 18/13 Oct 04/13 Feb 11/14

News archive for March 7, 2013

Sexual comments caused discomfort, panel told

The second daycare worker to file a human rights complaint against a now-closed Riverdale daycare told her story Wednesday at a hearing on sexual harassment allegations.

By Ashley Joannou on March 7, 2013 at 3:59 pm

photo

Photo by Whitehorse Star

Christina Hassard , Willow Lacosse and Jessica Dyck

The second daycare worker to file a human rights complaint against a now-closed Riverdale daycare told her story Wednesday at a hearing on sexual harassment allegations.

Jessica Dyck told the panel of human rights adjudicators that she got into an argument with the owner of Childhood Discoveries, Christina Hassard, in January 2012.

That happened on the day the daycare was told about another sexual harassment complaint by another former employee, Willow Lacosse.

Dyck said Hassard was “very confrontational,” and accused her of knowing about Lacosse’s complaint and planning to file one of her own.

Dyck told the panel she knew her friend had spoken with the Yukon Human Rights Commission, but didn’t know that she had decided to go through with the complaint.

Dyck said she told her boss, “I quit,” to which Hassard replied, “Good – you were going to get fired anyway.”

Dyck and Lacosse are accusing Hassard of failing to step in when there was sexual harassment in the workplace. They say they lost their jobs over that harassment.

Like Lacosse who testified Tuesday, Dyck said she was very uncomfortable with the jokes and sexual comments made by another employee, Mike Gustus.

The 23-year-old said Gustus, the daycare’s co-director, would often make comments about how attractive she is, and once asked her if her good mood was because she had “been laid the night before.”

She said Hassard and Gustus would laugh and joke together, and “shared the same sense of humour.”

After Lacosse was fired, Dyck said Gustus called her into the office and asked her if he made her feel uncomfortable.

She told the panel she didn’t feel comfortable telling Gustus how she felt.

Dyck said Hassard was also in the room, but left before Gustus asked the question.

“She should have stayed,” Dyck said.

There was a meeting just before Christmas, where Hassard agreed that things needed to be “toned down,” particularly when it comes to language, Dyck said.

“I said, ‘everyone needs to tone down their comments,’” Dyck said.

She told the panel that remark referred to Gustus, but that she didn’t feel comfortable using his name directly.

Lacosse and Dyck have said they felt uncomfortable coming to Hassard with their concerns because of her close relationship with Gustus.

During cross-examination of both women Tuesday, Hassard, who is representing herself, highlighted other concerns and conflicts around the daycare.

She noted the employees did come to speak to her in those situations.

She also questioned the pair’s motivations for making these claims.

She pointed to a Facebook status by Lacosse around the time she was fired, which reads: “Someday this is all going to blow up in your face.”

Lacosse denies the comment had anything to do with the daycare.

Both she and Dyck insist they had no desire to get the daycare shut down.

They also denied ever talking about making accusations out of revenge for having been fired.

Testimony in the afternoon came from another former employee, Shona Sicotte.

On the phone from Mayo, she told the panel Childhood Discoveries was the “best daycare she ever worked at.”

She described Gustus as being loud and “kind of obnoxious.”

She said “it was in his personality to be the centre of attention.”

Sicotte said she had known Gustus for years before they began working together at the daycare. His jokes “usually had a dirty connotation.”

Sicotte said she didn’t personally feel harassed.

“I’ve known Mike for a long time; he can be irritating, but I know how he is,” she said.

Gustus would make jokes in front of Hassard, other employees or “whoever would listen,” she said.

She said everyone, except for Dyck, would make jokes, and that Hassard was around for this kind of joking.

“It was a comfortable work environment; we felt like we could be ourselves.”

Today had been scheduled to be the last day of the hearing, but the panel ruled this morning it will continue on Friday to hear all the evidence.

Today, Hassard has a chance to call witnesses and give testimony herself.

See Friday’s edition for account of today’s testimony.

CommentsAdd a comment

flyingfur

Mar 7, 2013 at 4:09 pm

So is this Gustas guy going before the YHRB to explain his actions?  Sounds like he is the root cause of all of this mess.

bill panting

Mar 7, 2013 at 9:08 pm

I worked with mike for a few years .. he was a great guy to work with and his attitude was well this is the way I am don’t like it too bad.. personally I don’t feel he would say anything too ignorant in front of these women..

Patty O'Brien

Mar 8, 2013 at 3:45 pm

I have known Mike for years. My daughter rented a room from him while she attended College. He is a great guy and would certainly curb his language or jokes if he knew it was offensive. @flyingfur, sounds to me like the root cause is two young women who need to learn to speak up. I could understand an HRC complaint if they tried to resolve it themselves and were not successful. But eye rolling is not being up front. I bet if either of them had, even once, asked Mike to stop he would have stopped. It was all in fun.

CabComms

Mar 8, 2013 at 6:39 pm

I knew Mike, my kids attended Childhood Discoveries.  I can’t summon anything bad to say about Mr. Gustus. He was always very kind and very friendly. I can see him being the hug-giving sort.

Mike, here’s the truth. Some places are appropriate for your personal attitude, and some places are not. A place of employment filled with children and staffed by women is the latter. I wish that you could have figured that out on your own. The world we live in is one where, if you are the way you are, it can be too bad for you. Everyone has the right to a comfortable workplace.

Besides all that, you are all adults, you should have been able to resolve this before it became an issue

Outraged Yukoner

Mar 8, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Mike is a caring, outgoing, and respectful. He is also a phenomenal father, and role model to his daughter.
Anyone who truly knows Mr. Gustus would see directly through these allegations.
I was personally in Curious Buddies on MANY occasions, and witnessed numerous interactions between all the staff members working in the daycare facility, and can say that I never felt once that these allegations could be even remotely true. I only hope the public of Whitehorse does not take this to heart .

Arn Anderson

Mar 10, 2013 at 9:25 am

Wow, so many workplaces where rude comments fly around, its called joking around. I’ve worked in a million places like this, men and women and it goes both ways.

You don't really need to read between the lines

Mar 10, 2013 at 10:12 am

So, having read all the positive feedback concerning Mike, such as,    “I don’t feel he would say anything too ignorant in front of these women..” “He is a great guy and would certainly curb his language or jokes if he knew it was offensive” and “Some places are appropriate for your personal attitude, and some places are not.”
Yes, these are the comments in defense of him, so I can’t help but think that the women who are making the formal complaints are obviously telling the truth.
Lastly it is not the employees responsibility to deal with the person,  but up to the employer to deal with any conflicts or allegations amongst staff members.

Ketsia Houde

Mar 11, 2013 at 8:30 am

Coming forward with a complaint on sexual harassment is very hard. Looking at the comments that are supproting the harrasment, it’s no wonder women don’t come forward. Sexual harassment is a crime, making comments about your employees physical appearance is wrong and it clearly fits in the definition of sexual harrassment.
I support you who have the courage to stand up and speak up for yourself.
You will make it easier for others to follow.

Annonomious

Mar 11, 2013 at 11:50 am

Patty O’Brien your comment is ridiculous.  No one should ever have to ask for a respectful workplace.  These women should never have been put in a position where they would need to “speak up” as you put it.  Thanks for putting women’s rights back a few hundred years.

It’s nice to hear some people saying good things about Mike as a professional however to say he is a positive role model is not agreeable and I feel comfortable making that statement as I personally had a negative experience with him at a place I used to work where he was a regular customer.  Myself and another female coworker would often find ourselves stuck listening to his ‘jokes’ that were largely sexually based.  He always thought he was hilarious but the truth was everyone, including our male coworkers, put up with it because he was a customer.  I never said anything because he wasn’t my customer directly and I was able to walk away but I could see how being employed with him and having to endure those comments would get old real quick.

Former Yukoner

Mar 11, 2013 at 10:36 pm

My daughter use to go to a daycare where mike worked ( not that one mentioned) and she thought he was the coolest guy.  I feel for him having to be put through this embarrasement.

Patty O'Brien

Mar 12, 2013 at 9:26 am

It sounds like the comments were jokes, not personal cuts towards the co-workers. In which case, they need not take it personally. If they found the language or content offensive, however, they are well within their rights to say so.

If I decide to take a generic joke personally, I can feel hurt. I can say something, file a complaint, sue for damages or what have you.

In a workplace, I think it best to address my concerns with the co-worker first. If nothing changes, I should take it to the boss or supervisor. That is the process. That is the best way for women to be empowered, by speaking up. Leaping into an HRC complaint without the intermediate steps assumes everyone else is a bad guy.

so...

Mar 12, 2013 at 2:00 pm

@Patty…
If Gustus made nasty racial “jokes” but didn’t direct them specifically towards a minority person, or if he made gay “jokes” but didn’t direct them towards a specific person, would it be ok?
There is no such thing as a “generic” sexual joke. Offense lies in the eyes of the beholder, and that’s why people have to behave appropriately. Have all of you who are defending this nonsense been drinking? You seem to be ignoring the fact that this was a DAYCARE! Should our youngest most vulnerable citizens be raised in an environment that teaches them that this behaviour is ok?
Pull your heads out of you know where.

Missing the Point?

Mar 12, 2013 at 9:48 pm

I think some of you may have missed the point. We’ve all said or done something we have regretted at some point in our lives, and I’m sure Mr. Gustus will think twice before he tells a joke at work again. However, these women weren’t trying to get him in trouble, they were trying to get him to stop! That’s why the told their employer, Hassard. If Hassard would have reacted like any reasonable employer, she would have issued Gustus a WARNING, and this whole issue would settled under the rug with Mr. Gustus’s public credibility intact.

These inappropriate shenanigans happen ALL THE TIME and when employees cross the line, there are guidelines that are followed so that harassment free workplaces as well as reputations can be maintained in harmony. If there is anyone to be upset with, it should be Hassard. She failed BOTH of them!

Asif

Mar 13, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Gustus knows when he is speaking out of ‘acceptable’ context as stated he will not tell such jokes if he is offending someone - he knows this is wrong and is accountable. As for Hassard as an employer - you should have known better. I will not be one to revictimize the victims.

Wuzzup

Mar 14, 2013 at 1:45 am

I’ve known Mike for decades and I can’t say as I’d be willing to entrust him with my kids. He’s a little rough around the edges for sure.

what about.....

Mar 15, 2013 at 10:50 am

Regardless of how many comments are made here about the character of the guy, the bottom line is that this was taking place in a daycare!  You know, a place where parents place their young children while expecting a safe, nurturing environment?  Not one filled with sexual jokes, unhappy employees, and a director who admits to not being able to deal with her employee’s issues.  If I had had one of my kids there during this time period, I would really be wondering about the kind of care they received.

Add a comment

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your full name and email address are required before your comment will be posted.

Commenting is not available in this section entry.

Comment preview