'We're not lazy, we're old': 71-year-old worker at Costco wins right to sit on the job

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 said he was told to stand or go home after he brought his own bench to work

While a 71-year-old Costco employee approached his bosses a few times about the issue of not being able to sit, he said it was only addressed once he shared his story with a local newspaper. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

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."

With files from Radio-Canada's Gravel le matin


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?