French waiter in Vancouver says he was fired for his 'direct, honest' personality

A waiter in Vancouver who was fired for being aggressive with his colleagues says he's not rude — he's just French.

Milestones Restaurant says waiter's behaviour contradicted company's code of conduct

A former waiter at a Milestone's Restaurant has filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal against the company. (ESB Professional/Shutterstock)

A waiter in Vancouver who was fired for being aggressive with his colleagues says he's not rude — he's just French. 

Guillaume Rey has filed a complaint at the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal against Milestones Restaurant and its parent company, Cara Operations, where he worked as a waiter from October 2015 to August 2016.

Cara and Milestones applied to dismiss the complaint, but tribunal member Devyn Cousineau denied their application earlier this month, paving the way for the complaint to be heard.

In her decision, Cousineau said the restaurant maintains that Rey was terminated for his "aggressive tone and nature" with colleagues, which violates its code of conduct.

But Rey says his co-workers misinterpreted his "direct, honest and professional" French personality. 

'Very friendly and professional'

Both parties agree Rey was good at his job, according to the decision.

Rey often worked as "shift lead," at the Vancouver restaurant, where his duties sometimes included supervising servers.

He garnered "great feedback from guests" and was praised for being "very friendly and professional with his tables."

With his colleagues, apparently, not so much. 

European cultural integration specialist B.C. Talents says French people are often more direct in giving and taking feedback. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

On several occasions Rey was disciplined and warned about how he treated his colleagues, which the restaurant described as "combative and aggressive."

Rey denies that was the case. The decision says he alleges a general manager told him that he may come across as aggressive because of his culture.

Milestone's and Cara did not respond to requests for comment, and Rey declined an interview.

'More direct and expressive' culture

The incident that ultimately led to his dismissal took place in August 2016, when Rey asked one of the servers to complete his duties. 

Rey says he was courteous toward the server. But the restaurant manager said the server came into her office "borderline in tears" after Rey "aggressively" checked the server's duties. 

Both parties have filed letters from witnesses supporting their version of the event. Rey was fired for violating the company's Respect in the Workplace policy.

According to the decision, Rey claims "he was being terminated because of his French culture," which "tends to be more direct and expressive."

The tribunal member didn't agree or disagree with either party, but said there wasn't enough evidence to dismiss the complaint. 

'They tend to be very direct'

Cultural differences for French people working in B.C. is a topic Julien Mainguy knows all about. 

Mainguy is the co-founder of B.C. Talents, which helps francophones from Europe integrate into the workforce. 

A culture gap is being cited as one possible reason why a French's waiter's direct approach in interactions with colleagues at a local Milestones restaurant may have been interpreted as rude.

"The culture in Canada, it's a non-conflict culture, particularly in the professional area," Mainguy said.

"Most of the French-speaking people from Europe, they tend to be very direct."

But Mainguy says, despite those differences, it's important for French people to adapt to Canadian culture if they want to thrive in their career. 

"They have to understand how they get perceived by the Canadian people and not just do what they used to do in France or in Europe," he said. 

Mainguy also emphasized that employing people from different cultures can present an opportunity for businesses. 

"I also think it's the responsibility of the employer ... to try to understand and learn from the other culture."

About the Author

Maryse Zeidler

@MaryseZeidler

Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at maryse.zeidler@cbc.ca.