The owner of a cafe in Christchurch that was at the center of dozens of bullying allegations from his former staff has temporarily stepped down from the company to assess his future.
Sam Crofskey, owner of C1 Espresso on High St, has faced a flood of complaints from former employees in recent days after student Levi Painter posted his experience at a coffee shop online.
Former staff accused her of bullying, not allowing necessary breaks, asking inappropriate questions in interviews, and discouraging when sick.
Crofskey argued that the claims were largely baseless and said he was happy to raise concerns through “appropriate channels”.
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But on Sunday evening he said he had “decided to take a long break to reflect on last week’s conversation.”
Writing on C1’s Facebook page, Crofskey, who has owned the cafe for 17 years, said: “During this time I will be receiving professional advice on workplace culture and will assess my suitability at the company.
“I always value our team, and I want everyone who works with us to feel valued. This is a time of great disappointment for everyone.
“As long as I’m away, the company will be run by my manager Dale. Dale has been with us for eight years and he’s always done a great job.
“The past week has been a very challenging time for our 25 staff, some of whom have had to deal with very negative comments.
“Our staff will continue to do an excellent job of delivering the coffee, food and service that made C1 famous and we are looking for ways to support them through this difficult time.”
Raya Sharples, a former C1 Espresso employee, spoke to Stuff about her time working for Sam Crofskey.
Crofskey is the former president of Canterbury of the Restaurant Association and initiated the Christchurch Hospitality Awards. Last year he was inducted into the Restaurant Association hall of fame.
Prior to its announcement, unions and anti-bullying supporters said they would pursue legal recourse for C1 Espresso workers.
Painter’s discussion of his experiences on an online student bulletin board on Wednesday drew over 1000 comments and sparked the C1 boycott and the Facebook protest group was created, which now has more than 3000 members.
One of its administrators, Ellsie Coles, is working with other unions and advocates to explore possible legal avenues.
Although he never worked at the cafe, he has worked in the hotel industry and was aware of the allegations for a long time.
The former C1 employee will meet with union organizers via Zoom on Monday to pursue legal avenues.
The union representative said there were several legal avenues that former and current workers could take.
One way is through personal complaint claims, which can result in individual payments.
The grounds for the complaint included unjustified dismissal, harassment, “unjustifiable action against employees”, and failure to act within the legal requirements for agreed working hours.
However, a claim must be filed within 90 days of the action occurring.
Requesting an investigation from the Labor Inspector is another avenue of law, which could revolve around a staff claim that they only received a 20 minute break for an eight-hour shift and were punished for taking sick leave by being excluded from the list.
Violations can result in large fines.
A union advocate also suggested asking the company for information from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment regarding the payment of annual leave to former staff to find differences.
Former C1 staff member will discuss options on Monday with Chloe Ann-King, founder of the hospitality union and advocacy group Raise the Bar.
Maryline Suchley, director of anti-bullying culture in Christchurch, CultureSafe NZ, also works with Coles to help former and current employees and believes Labor Inspectors may find alegatin hard to ignore.
“I think this case is extraordinary. I don’t know how he was able to act like this for so long, though maybe because of the age group he targets, who often don’t know their rights, “he said of the allegations against Crofskey.