After being ordered to stay on his feet or go home, a 71-year-old sample server at Costco has won the right to use a bench at work.
Claude Gourdeau, a retired teacher, prepares and serves food and beverage samples at the club warehouse store in the Sainte-Foy district in Quebec City.
When a new company, Club Demonstrations Services (CDS), took charge of food demonstrations at the giant retailer in August, the employees lost a slew of rights, Gourdeau said.
"We have beautiful material to work with, nice tables, but they got rid of the benches we had before," he said. "It's a step backwards that I don't understand."
"I started to make comments to the local managers. Why are we getting rid of the benches? We used to have them, and we offered a good service."
No sitting, no leaning
His colleagues, who are all between the ages of 60 and 75, were reprimanded for leaning lightly on the wall after they were banned from sitting, he said.
They were also ordered not to drink water while serving food, he added.
"It's pretty crazy," he told Radio-Canada's Gravel le matin. "What's the problem?"
"We're not lazy, we're old. We have the opportunity to work and we're in good health, even if we have some boo-boos."
"We're useful to society: We provide services, and we pay our taxes."
When Gourdeau decided to bring his own bench from home, he said he was told by management to either get rid of the bench or go home.
"So I took my bench, and I got the hell out of there," he said. "I didn't quit, I came back. They didn't fire me."
Medical note needed
While Gourdeau approached his bosses a few times about the issue, he said it was only addressed once he shared his story with a local newspaper.
This week, he was granted his wish to have a bench at work — but only if he got a medical note and filled out a multi-paged report required by CDS.
After taking his case to upper management, Gourdeau is now one of 15 CDS workers granted the exception, out of a total of 953 employees.
While it's a step in the right direction for Gourdeau, he said he hopes his bosses will ease up on his colleagues, as well.
"I hope that things will change, and the public supports us," he said. "People don't understand how we could accept these kinds of work conditions."