A former Vancouver grocery store manager says he was wrongfully terminated for helping feed some of the neighbourhood’s homeless.
Justin Grant was a manager for four years at Your Independent Grocer on Davie Street.
He said he would provide recently expired or low-value food to homeless people in exchange for help as a way to de-escalate situations in the store.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a 14-year-old kid who lives on the street saying, ‘I don’t want to shoplift in the store, can I have a sandwich?'” Grant told Global News.
“That is absolutely heartbreaking so I would say, ‘If you go and sweep the outside of the store, the sandwich is yours.'”
Grant said he had been doing this with the knowledge of store staff and fellow management.
However, in October, parent company Loblaws accused Grant of stealing $600 worth of product and without warning, he was terminated.
“He had been promoted multiple times (and) given multiple pay raises,” Jenson Leung, employment lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP in Vancouver, told Global News.
Grant was fired during a meeting, Leung added, despite his explanation of the circumstances.
“The worst part was that they escorted him straight out of the store on the same day,” he said. “So this is someone who had an unblemished record, was given promotions, was on track to do great things, and was unceremoniously tossed out simply because he had the goal to be charitable to a homeless person.”
Grant has now filed a civil claim against Loblaws.
“The irony is that at all times, what (Grant) was doing was what he felt was really good for the store and for the company,” Leung said.
“Unfortunately, Loblaws has continued to maintain the position that he was terminated for theft. Now, we completely understand that, in a retail setting, theft is a big deal. But the thing is that once someone has essentially made a donation of expired or written-off goods, that’s not the same as someone taking a candy bar off the shelf.”
Vancouver police confirmed to Global News they were also contacted in October, but following an investigation, no charges were recommended.
“I don’t want my name associated with any kind of theft,” Grant said.
“I just think it’s truly unfair. It’s sad more than anything else.”
None of the claims has been proven in court and Loblaws did not respond to Global News’ request for comment.