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Top Stella’s executives placed on leave after accusations of toxic workplace culture

Two top staffers at a prominent restaurant chain in Winnipeg have been put on an “indefinite leave of absence” in the wake of numerous accusations of labour and human rights violations.

Stella’s regional manager Brad Burrows and Stella’s CEO Grant Anderson have both stepped down from their position, confirmed in a letter posted for employees and sent to media Monday.

“Grant Anderson and Brad Burrows will be taking an indefinite leave of absence from Stella’s, to allow for an independent and full-confidential process of investigation to unfold. Their leaves of absence take effect today,” the letter reads.

The leaves come after a flurry of online accusations through an Instagram account, called @notmystellas. As of Monday afternoon, the account had 222 posts alleging the chain ignored harassment, sexual harassment, labour laws and contributed to unsafe working conditions.

Christina Hajjar, Kelsey Wade, and Amanda Murdock are all former employees and said they are just some of the many former and current Stella’s workers who have voiced concerns about their time working at the restaurant.

“It’s safe to say the whole experience was terrifying,” Murdock said. “These statements we’ve made are based on what we’ve experienced. They’re valid, important, and should be respected.”

Hajjar said in an Instagram post that she was fired for questioning authority one year ago. It was her post commenting on her anniversary which sparked the Instagram account.

A former employee told Global News he was fired after making a sexual assault complaint earlier this year.

Despite going to police and the Manitoba Labour Board, Steve Bechard said he wasn’t able to get his job as a kitchen manager at Stella’s back.

The letter first apologizes for the situation current employees are facing before urging anyone with concerns to contact People First HR Consultants to be part of the investigation.

It also states People First will “roll out an enhanced respectful workplace policy” in the next few days.

Since the accusations came out, social media has been swarmed with people saying they plan to boycott the restaurant chain. Global News has also heard reports of the restaurants being called by angry customers and harassing current staff.

The store location on Sherbrook Street closed early Monday for a staff meeting and will stay closed until Wednesday morning.

The full letter from Stella’s:

“Stella’s is committed to ensuring the integrity of independent, confidential third-party investigations into serious and upsetting allegations and complaints being circulated in our community about our restaurant operations.

“We are deeply sorry for the difficult circumstances and we regret and apologize to all those who are hurting.

“We are immediately addressing the situation in these ways:

  • Grant Anderson and Brad Burrows will both take indefinite leaves of absence from Stella’s, to ensure the integrity of the independent investigation process. This takes effect today. During this time, we have appointed an interim Director of Operations who will immediately take on the role. We have informed all staff and managers of these changes.
  • Today, we issued a message to all staff and managers advising that People First HR Consultants will handle investigations into complaints, and will provide enhanced respectful workplace training and policy roll-out to all staff and management. We have asked all Stella’s staff and managers to direct complaints and concerns through the confidential process outlined in a letter to them.
  • Additionally, we are encouraging anyone with allegations or complaints to submit them through the Manitoba Human Rights Commission and/or Manitoba Employment Standards.

“We are committed to restoring the trust and confidence of our staff, our valued customers, and the entire community. This process will take time, and we recognize that operational changes are needed. We will do everything that we must do to create a respectful, safe and healthy work environment.

“Today at 3:00 PM, we closed our Sherbrook Street location for a store staff meeting. This restaurant will also be closed tomorrow. All of our other locations will remain open.   

“We want to thank the community for many messages of support and encouragement. We are extremely grateful to our dedicated staff who are going above and beyond, and supporting one another.

“Tore Sohlberg and Lehla Abreder

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