Ex-Sodexo staffer says he was fired because of Occupy Calgary
MRU food services company tells different story
Marcus Arseneault, 19, was hired to work for Sodexo at Mount Royal University around the end of September 2011. He mainly worked in the EC building, slinging coffee at the Starbucks kiosk.
Arseneault said it was a great job and he loved working for Sodexo, adding he got along with his co-workers, was paid a fair wage and would receive benefits after three months of employment.
In fact, he said it was his interest in ensuring the rights of others to fair pay and benefits that led him to the Occupy Calgary movement.
Arseneault participated in Occupy initiatives downtown, and set up and moderated an online forum for the group. However, he said he kept those activities separate from his work with Sodexo, never missing work to be at rallies or even talking about political matters at work.
That’s why he was surprised to allegedly received an email from MRU Sodexo retail manager Elric Nielsen stating he was fired because of his involvement with Occupy Calgary.
“I was shocked by it,” Arseneault said. “I mean, I was a good employee there. I don’t even know what to say. I’m still trying to wrap my head around all this.”
The email, which Arseneault alleges was sent to him on Nov. 8 from Nielsen’s company email address, reads: “As your involvement (sic) with the Occupy Calgary Movement we cannot have your involvement reflect the company in any way, shape or form.
“I would like to make it clear to you that in no way is this termination a result of the company being unhappy with your performance during your employment. In fact you have been a wonderful contribution to the Sodexo team however unfortunately due to your involvment (sic) with Occupy Calgary we do have to let you go.”
Arseneault said shortly after receiving the email he called Nielsen, who then verbally confirmed he was being fired solely because of his involvement with Occupy Calgary.
After speaking to Nielsen, Arseneault forwarded the email to several local news organizations and posted it on a blog related to Occupy Calgary, resulting in international attention from the Occupy movement.
Sodexo representatives confirmed they did fire Arseneault before the email was allegedly sent. However, they said it happened very differently than what Arseneault described.
Sodexo spokesperson Jon Kristjanson said the company has never fired anyone because of their involvement with Occupy Calgary. He said Sodexo believes the email is a hoax, and they are currently investigating how it appeared to be sent by Nielsen.
Brent Mann, Sodexo’s general manager at MRU, said when he first heard about the email he had “zero doubt” the message was not sent by Nielsen.
In regards to the ensuing phone conversation in which Arseneault said the contents of the email were confirmed by Nielsen, Mann said, “I can guarantee that phone call did not happen.”
Though there is currently no proof that Sodexo did not send the email, there is some evidence to support their version of events. The email was signed “Elric Nielson,” which is a common misspelling of the manager’s last name and a mistake that Nielsen himself would presumably be unlikely to make.
Nielsen also told The Reflector he was eating lunch with two other people at the time he supposedly sent the email.
Mann said he feels it’s clear the email did not originate with Sodexo. “If you read the email, it’s pretty obvious,” he said. “You don’t even really have to read between the lines. We’re a very large corporation with some very intelligent people working for us.”
Though Mann could not comment on the reason why Arseneault was fired, the Calgary Herald’s Jen Gerson reported in a recent blog post that credible anonymous sources told her it was due to absenteeism.
Arseneault said he is going to take the matter to the Alberta Human Rights Commission, though he doesn’t plan to bring a lawsuit against Sodexo at this time.
“Granted, I would like to sue, but I can’t afford a lawyer,” Arseneault said. “Especially now, considering I’m jobless.”