Younger generation of workers aren’t afraid to stand up for their rights
Last week, The Needle Vinyl Tavern closed its doors indefinitely roughly 48 hours after a woman named Brittany Rudyck shared, on Facebook, allegations of sexual harassment against one of the owners.
The impact and speed at which the repercussions were felt has sparked a lot of conversation and has other businesses questioning their own immunity to these types of situations.
The public outcry against sexual harassment in the workplace was fierce, gigs were cancelled and entertainment bookers scrambled to find artists other venues throughout the city, and roughly 80 people were suddenly out of work.
Something Rudyck didn’t expect was the backlash against her for what transpired.
“I stopped reading the comments, otherwise I’d go insane,” Rudyck says. “They are so scathing and hurtful, attacking my character … Am I villain? I don’t know. I don’t care. I don’t care what I am in all of this. What I said has been said, it’s out there, and now I am trying to move forward with my own life and educate myself on how to be a better advocate and have a stronger voice, and not just roll over and take all this punishment.”
There are laws requiring businesses to have policies and procedures in place to protect employees and ensure a respectful workplace, and according to Julianna Cantwell, a certified human resources professional with JUNA Consulting, people are also starting to demand it.
“There is a younger generation of workers who are more informed about their rights and won’t put up with some of the old ways of doing things,” Cantwell says.
Though she confesses that, “It’s not uncommon for small businesses to not have proper policies in place because they’re not aware of what’s required under WCB, Occupational Health and Safety, and the Human Rights Code, and this is true to food service and entertainment business owners too.”
Businesses who don’t have policies in place, or need help with the implementation can contact a human resources firm or access free information, training and template policies from the Alberta Human Rights Commission and Alberta Learning Service websites.
Cantwell says there’s a caveat to successfully implementing policies though.
“Just because you have a policy, doesn’t stop it from happening. Ideally, it’s a three step process. Step one: you have a policy. Step two: you train your management how to deal with it. Step three: you train your staff on what they can do.”
Perhaps what has transpired will shift from a culture of victim blaming and shaming, as Rudyck has experienced, to a culture of holding businesses and employers more accountable for the safety and wellbeing of their employees.
“One of the reasons women don’t come forward sooner is because they have mouths to feed, or they’re afraid they won’t be listened to, or their concerns taken seriously,” Rudyck says. “I want something to change so my story isn’t repeated again.”
If a business neglects putting the proper policies and procedures in place to support a respectful workplace, hefty fines can be handed down but as we’ve seen from what’s happened here, it can also cost a business owner their entire investment, seemingly overnight.
“I think in the future, we will witness a lot of changes in music and the hospitality industry,” says James Renton, lead singer of local folk-punk-rock band Fire Next Time, one of the several bands who cancelled their show at The Needle.
“The Needle will serve as a cautionary tale that times are a-changing,” he says. “You can either accept it and adapt, or push back and fail. Women are proving, now more than ever, that they have a voice, and they will be heard.”