Montreal

No meat on menu for Montreal purse maker

A Montreal accessories company has taken its policy of using no animal products beyond the rack and has forbidden its staff from eating meat and fish at work.

Vegetarian lunches required at eco-conscious Matt and Nat

Matt and Nat have carved out a reputation for producing fashionable, vegan and socially conscious bags. ((CBC))
A Montreal accessories company has taken its policy of using no animal products beyond the rack and has forbidden its staff from eating meat and fish at work.

A former employee says the policy violated her rights as a non-vegetarian.

Staff at the Matt and Nat offices in Montreal often share their vegetarian lunches together in the company's lunchroom. ((CBC))
Matt and Nat, based in Montreal's Ahuntsic neighbourhood, makes its purses and belts without leather or suede, using everything from plastic bottles to rubber tires in its designs.

Creative director Inder Bedi said the company was founded on a principle of being environmentally conscious. He said it was important to have employees embrace the lifestyle as well.

Not only are the 18 employees barred from bringing meat in their lunches, if they dine at a restaurant with a client, they are required to order only vegetarian dishes.

They are also asked not to wear leather, suede or fur to work.

The policy has been in place for seven years.

"We do have a policy here, and it's something that we let potential employees know, right from the first interview," said Bedi. "It might be considered unorthodox or even a little bit hippie-dippie. But as we grew, it's something we felt that was important."

'The fact that we don't use any animal products, it would be kind of weird or strange to be eating animal products on the premises.'— Inder Bedi, Matt and Nat creative director and founder

No one does checks of lunch boxes, he said. It's a corporate culture that is largely embraced by employees who mostly share their lunch hour together in the company's cafeteria, which is lined with vegetarian cookbooks.

"The office here, we like to think of it as our temple. So it's important to us to have certain policies. Employees are free to obviously go out and do whatever they like outside the temple, but inside here, we try to stick to the policy," said Bedi.

Former employee questions policy

A former employee who spoke to CBC News said the policy was a nuisance for people who eat meat.

She said she would sometimes cheat and leave the office to eat her lunch.

"Sometimes, you put it in your purse, or I would leave the food in my car, and I would go get it at lunchtime and eat in my car. When I told my friends they were all shocked and started laughing at me," said the woman, who asked her name be withheld for fear of professional fallout in the city's small needle-trade industry.

"It's a free country ... I think we should eat what we want," she said.

Eating code just like dress code: lawyer

According to Montreal lawyer Jordan Charness, the company is breaking no laws. He said a private company has the right to adopt its own food policy in the workplace.

"If this is a vegan company, they can say that everyone has to adhere to their vegan policies — at least at work," said Charness.

"So it's like a dress code. Here, it's just an eating code."

Bedi said he never considered the policy to be controversial.

"I've never really looked at it that way — whether we are infringing on somebody's rights. It's who we are as a company. You know, our brand," he said.

"The fact that we don't use any animal products, it would be kinda weird or strange to be eating animal products on the premises."

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