The owners of Toronto's Weslodge are admitting the sexual harassment allegations by its former pastry chef Kate Burnham may be true. This week, Burnham went public with the allegations and filed an application with Ontario's Human Rights Tribunal. She says that she was "routinely sexually harassed and abused" by three male chefs who would grab her breasts, make lewd comments, and call her names.
INK Entertainment and Icon Legacy Hospitality — the owners of Weslodge — have remained quite mum on the subject, only offering statements saying that the company does not "tolerate any form of workplace harassment." The companies also noted that they hold "semi-annual feedback sessions" so that employees can air their issues. However, they would not admit that the allegations were true even though Burnham claimed that the companies knew about the situation.
Their tune has changed: In a joint statement, the CEOs of INK and Icon admit that the alleged incidents may have taken place, but due to a lack of communication, they were not able to fix the situation. "Our investigation of the allegations has revealed that there may have been lack of communication and reporting of the alleged incidents at Weslodge in 2012. This circumstance impeded our ability to affect appropriate remedies, and we regret this." The CEOs say that the allegations are "disturbing and unacceptable," and that they hope to resolve the situation with Burnham through mediation.
The statement, in full, below:
We are troubled by the allegations of inappropriate behaviour that occurred in our Weslodge restaurant more than a year ago that has newly come to our attention. The allegations as described by a former employee are disturbing and unacceptable and in no way reflect our organizational values.
We are committed to ensuring a safe work place and have zero tolerance for harassment or discriminatory behaviour. We have undertaken a review of the human resources process and procedures, notably related to Weslodge.
Our investigation of the allegations has revealed that there may have been lack of communication and reporting of the alleged incidents at Weslodge in 2012. This circumstance impeded our ability to affect appropriate remedies, and we regret this.
We are committed to promoting a culture of inclusiveness and to nurture and celebrate back of house talent.
To this end, we are focused on engaging with our employees in more meaningful ways. In the short term, we will increase the frequency and modify the structure of our information and feedback sessions and we will introduce additional reporting oversight. We will seek out opportunities to support and work with other industry leaders to drive positive change within the food and beverage community.
We have parted ways with all the individuals involved in the allegations throughout various times in 2014.
We remain hopeful that this matter can be resolved through mediation with Ms. Burnham.