But will this new legislation address the root cause of this incident? I am not convinced. I believe changes need to made to prohibit retail and restaurant employers from docking workers pay when there is a theft under the employee's watch, or they make a mistake.
Since 2012, there have been 2128 Gas and Dash incidents in Calgary. None of these resulted in injury. In 2005 in BC, a young gas station attendant was killed in an eerily similar incident. Since then, his father has worked tirelessly on Grants Law in BC, and encouraging other provinces to adopt the same.
According to Maryam's husband and friends, the fact that she confronted the accused in a nearby Home Depot parking lot was not part of her nature. Her husband has surmised that she may have thought that she would have to pay for the stolen gas out of her paycheck. The Iranian trained engineer had only been working at the gas station for a few days, having recently been laid off from her job.
The practice of deducting the cost of 'mistakes' from workers needs to be addressed. Employers may believe workers are more diligent if they know if is going to cost them some cash, but In my opinion it is a form of workplace bullying. Rarely does the worker have control over who pays and who doesn't. There is nothing this woman could have done differently to prevent the theft. There was no mistake here.
This reminded me of a story my daughter told me. While waitressing at a nearby pub, a group of men 'dined and dashed', leaving her with the $160 bill. The restaurant took the money out of her wages, and this was more than her nights wages and tips combined. She was devastated when she realized that she would have to work 2 nights for free because of these thieves. Flash forward to the next Saturday and another group leave without paying. She decides there is no way she is paying for these guys dinner and drinks, so she hauls her little 19 year old self down the street after these guys, confronts them and drags them back into the bar! Fortunately, they were just intoxicated, and were happy to pay up. When she told this story to us, I envisioned many different outcomes. It is not ok for a young woman to put herself at risk for fear of being disciplined, fired or paying out of pocket. This practice of paying out of pocket for mistakes is commonplace in the retail and service industry.
I believe it comes down to creating a safe work culture in a workplace. A safe work culture is one with common beliefs, dedicated management commitment, and a functioning and effective management system. This would take the fear out of the equation about losing a job when someone steals $113 of gas, or $160 for a dinner, or a till is short $40. Workers would feel they could approach management to report the incident without fear of losing a job or being personally out of pocket.
This is a common practice in the retail and restaurant industries... And it needs to change. Now.