Clark Hall Pub staff let go via e-mail

Bartender ‘insulted’ by electronic dismissal

On the morning of June 29, Alisa Yocom woke up to an e-mail telling her she had lost her job at Clark Hall Pub.

Thirty-eight other Clark Hall employees received the same e-mail from Engineering Society President Charlie Scott telling them their contracts with Clark had been terminated.

Yocom, a Masters student in kinesiology, worked as a bartender at the pub for three years.

“I was very upset and confused and kind of insulted that’s the way they chose to tell us,” she said.

Yocom said she learned of the closure in an e-mail from Erin Hall, Clark’s business manager, the night before receiving Scott’s e-mail. Before that night, she had no idea closing the pub was an option.

“There were never any concerns raised [with staff] about closure,” she said.

Yocom said her last paycheque from the bar for $40 bounced when she tried to cash it. Other staff members’ cheques bounced too, she said.

“They were bouncing because they had frozen Clark’s account,” she said. “Some people have been getting bank charges.”

She said the executive told her they’d have the cheques reprinted by July 20, but her cheque wasn’t ready when she went back for a second time to pick it up from the EngSoc office.

She said she found another part-time job at a clothing store downtown for the school year because she needs the money, but she can’t keep the job. She can’t work the 20 hours a week required because of a research grant for her degree that limits her to 10 hours a week. She worked one shift a week at Clark and the hours were flexible. Yocom said she would go back if the bar reopened.

“[The staff] love the pub as much as anyone else does,” she said. “I think Charlie [Scott] and Rob [MacNamara, EngSoc vice-president (operations),] will face some pressure when everyone returns in September.” MacNamara, who said he wrote the staff e-mail with Scott, said staff are receiving termination pay. Staff can have their cheques mailed to them by registered mail or pick them up from the EngSoc office. He agreed e-mail wasn’t the best way to contact staff about their termination.

“I do consider the means by which staff was communicated to could have been dealt with a lot more effectively,” he said. “A four-line e-mail, it’s not very personal.”

He said that was the only option open to them, however.

“When you have people scattered across the country and across the world and limited contact information, it’s the quickest way,” he said. “There really is no good way of telling someone they’ve lost their job.”

MacNamara said he asked Hall for her staff members’ contact information and she refused to give it to him.

“She just questioned the legality of it,” he said.

Hall said Scott met with her and told her EngSoc was closing the pub and she was being fired the day before he told the rest of the staff over e-mail.

Afterwards she e-mailed her staff to let them know they were losing their jobs.

“The staff [are] some of my best friends so I think I had a responsibility to tell them,” she said. “Charlie never at all told me this was confidential.”

Hall said MacNamara asked for the staff’s contact information to put up a page on EngSoc’s website about Clark Hall Pub.

“It wasn’t for the purpose of firing the staff,” she said. “They have an e-mail list. They also have access to our computer so they could get the list and phone numbers.”

Diane Kelly, the University’s legal counsel, said e-mail is a legal way to terminate an employment contract.

The EngSoc executive came to her for advice, she said. She wouldn’t confirm that she’d seen the termination e-mail before it was sent.

Scott said the executive didn’t consult a labour lawyer before sending out the e-mail.

According to EngSoc policy, a majority vote of EngSoc Council is needed to dismiss a Clark Hall manager. Scott said the staff was terminated because the bar closed, so it wasn’t a dismissal for disciplinary reasons and didn’t need a council vote.

“We didn’t fire anyone.”

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.