Nfld. & Labrador

Harassed at work, this young cashier is fed up

This 18-year-old says she's just trying to do her job, tired of older male customers inside the grocery store constantly directing lewd gestures and comments her way.

Sexually charged harassment a daily occurrence, says Jenna Gidge

Jenna Gidge says older male customers make sexually charged comments toward her almost every day while she's at work at a Mount Pearl grocery store. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

It was a regular day at work for Jenna Gidge, ringing in customers at her cashier job for a grocery store in Mount Pearl.

So it included an older male customer at another cash register near hers making lewd gestures at the 18-year-old.

"He had stopped, looked me up and down and was like licking his lips," Gidge said Thursday, adding it's the kind of thing that's happened daily during her 18 months on the job.  

Gidge said the gesture made her immediately uncomfortable to the point where she had to walk away from her post.

But, the customer followed.

"As he was leaving he put his hand on my shoulder and went down the side of my chest area and told me to, 'Have a nice day,'" Gidge said.

"I did not have a nice day after that."

Gidge said her mother's Facebook post provided an outlet for other women to share similar stories. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

A Facebook post by the young cashier's mother drew outrage and hundreds of comments from members of a local "Buyer Beware" group on Monday. 

Gidge said that she loves her job and feels it's a great place to work, except for the daily harassment and sexually charged comments by male customers she has had to endure while on the clock.

"Because we're at work, we're in a polite mindset. We're not going to speak out, but now I think it's coming up that we should speak out," she said. 

More coming forward

Gidge said the men who harass her are generally older than she is — 40 years and upward, and one incident included an older man telling Gidge that he wanted to kidnap her.

Almost every girl has had a comment made about them at their workplace.- Jenna Gidge

She said her mother vented on Facebook because she is tired of her daughter coming home with a new incident, and feeling her employer wasn't doing anything to protect young female employees.

"The reaction is a mixture of sad, in a way, but I'm glad I did speak out about it and that people are coming forward," she said.

"But it's happening everywhere. Almost every girl has had a comment made about them at their workplace. Not just cashiers, but all different workplaces."

'Now I know what I can do'

Gidge said her employer emphasizes support for its staff, but that there are hectic days on the job where managers are not immediately nearby to deal with incidents such as hers. 

She wants cashiers to have the ability to stand up for themselves, to be able to call out rude, lewd and aggressive customers and wants to see a system put in place where harassed employees can time stamp an incident so that security footage can be reviewed later. 

For now, Gidge is just happy that the Facebook post opened up a conversation that she said needs to happen more often. People sharing similar stories has made her realize that she isn't alone, and she's feeling the support. 

"Everybody is pretty brave in coming out with their stories after hearing mine. So, it's a really good response," she said. 

"Now I know what I can do. Now I know that I'm able to speak out.… I think everybody knows now, don't be afraid. Because if you don't speak out, right then in that moment, it's not going to stop."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Zach Goudie