Bow Street Market

What is with Bow Street Market? Do you shop there? A nice looking place, isn’t it? Feel free to continue shopping there.

HOWEVER

– Bow Street Market’s General Manager has been witnessed calling female employees “whore” and “slut”…to their faces. Other senior managers have confirmed their awareness of the General Manager’s sexually harassing comments, one of them saying that “they can never fire me for sexual harassment with all the things he (the store manager) has said.” This general manger is still there, with the owners’ approval.

– One employee was singled out for termination, even as Bow Street Market’s upper management admitted on two occasions that complaints against that employee were “inconclusive,” “unsubstantiated,” and “vengeful.” That employee complained of a campaign of verbal and emotional harassment and inappropriate behavior from two co-workers. He informed his supervisors of the subtle and escalating harassment, bullying, and false accusations that poisoned the workplace. He complained that he was called “an asshole” by one of the co-workers who was previously reprimanded for her behavior. No action was taken by management against the offending employee. The employee was pressured into silence and was eventually the only one terminated, even though he provided evidence of his claims against fellow employees obstructing his ability to work undisturbed. That employee personally asked for assistance from management, verbally as well as in writing, on numerous occasions and complained of a “hostile environment” only to have it said of him by the owners and management when he was terminated for being frustrated with the situation. A “hostile environment,” as determined by a company that tolerates female employees being called sexually derogatory names by a senior manager?

– Employees air their opinions regarding religion, politics, and sexual preferences in front of customers and co-workers who complain about the uncomfortable conditions at work. No substantial action is taken by upper management and the inappropriate dialogue continued unabated, disrupting the ability of other employees to work in peace. Those loudmouthed employees are still there.

– The interpersonal work relationships are left to employees to handle on their own, often leading to unpleasant dynamics in the workplace. Supervisors do not follow up on requests for assistance, allowing the disharmony between employees to continue. Hourly employees publicly criticize management and one female employee repeatedly made disparaging remarks about one male manager’s “lack of manhood,” saying “he should get some balls.” Current employees at Bow Street Market are threatened and forbidden from talking to former employees who have this information.

Employees term the work environment “unworkable” and far worse. Those who have worked at Bow Street Market for over 30 years make far less than those hired after them because they have never thought to ask for a raise. In some instances these long-time employees have not received pay increases in years, receiving considerably lower wages than local industry standards. Employees complain that the pay structure is “incomprehensible” and “arbitrary.” According to one senior employee who told the owner that similar companies in the area “pay a lot more” and offer such basic benefits as employee discounts, “she (the owner) got angry and said that’s bullshit.” However, one of the butchers accepted a similar meat-cutting position for 6 dollars more per hour elsewhere and
another butcher was heavily pressured and eventually paid much more to stay after he was hired at a competitor’s business. His department manager joked that “we would never let him leave, we’ll bribe him if we have to.” Another department manager joked that he “should give notice just to get a raise.” The owners of Bow Street Market run a private business and can operate as they wish, but their policies are unfair to all of their employees across the board, arbitrarily compensating employees as they wish.

– At least two employees quit on the spot during the last year, both of them “storming out” (in the general manager’s words) of the store after verbally accusing upper management of “dishonesty.”  This same general manager joked that one of these employees was “probably stressed out” because he had a very overweight wife (“Have you seen her?  Wow.  Doesn’t mean he should take it out on us,” he joked…haha, funny stuff).  The manager made additional insulting comments about the employee’s wife, using more insulting terms referring to her weight. Remember, this general manager and the owners accused others of creating a “hostile environment.” Additionally, this manager was also caught in the dishonest conversations that forced the other employee to “storm out.”

– Bow Street Market employees who increase the company’s profits are refused a basic letter of recommendation when they leave to help them find work elsewhere. One employee was eventually given such a letter, but only after being coerced into signing an agreement and paid off to not “disparage” or “criticize” the company after they leave. Even after such agreements are signed in good faith, the owners and managers of Bow Street Market continue to thwart them from finding other employment in the area.

The owners of Bow Street Market have retained a high-priced Portland attorney to quash this information and prohibit those who threaten to make it it public. They have even gone so far as to seek a no trespassing order against the former employee simply because he expressed his views. Additionally, their attorney offered $100 — one hundred dollars — to ensure that these details remain unknown. Unfortunately, these details are actually against the law. Any attorney threatening an individual who has first hand knowledge of such workplace conduct would therefore appear to be condoning violations of state and federal labor practices. While that may be defensible in the eyes of the law and enforceable in court, public opinion always questions such tactics that are the equivalent of silencing whistle-blowers. The employee has now repaid the money to the store and revoked the agreement to remain quiet.

As for offering payment to former employees to ensure that they not “disparage” or “criticize” Bow Street Market, that’s a matter of semantics. “Disparage,” legally speaking, implies “relating
falsehoods with the intent to damage a business financially.”

1. Nothing written here is untrue. All of it is supported by evidence and substantiated by others who could lose their jobs if called to testify.  Either that, or lie out of fear.
2. This is not a call to boycott Bow Street Market. This is an attempt to set the record straight against those who are wielding their powerful advantage and local reputation by going to great lengths to suppress information that they want to remain secret. There’s little choice when a
company is so aggressive in defending it’s public face and redirecting blame.

As for “criticizing” Bow Street Market, these are simply facts presented without unnecessary commentary.  The commentary you hear is that which is playing in your head as you read this.  Make your own decisions. Just because things sound unpleasant doesn’t mean they’re criticisms. Saying that someone burned the toast doesn’t mean you criticized them for it. Some folks like burned toast.  We don’t mean to sound disapproving, but the facts are the facts.  Perhaps this is how all such
companies operate.  Perhaps Whole Foods or LL Bean have similar policies and managers who call female employees derogatory terms are kept on payroll even after ownership is made aware of their comments.  If so, then there is no shame here. It’s just a former employee saying this is how it is at Bow Street as well. Big deal.  So why the attorney?

As for this letter, that aforementioned attorney in Portland has threatened to pursue legal action against Bow Street Market’s former employee for bringing this all to light, the same amount of effort it would require to address the issues at hand. An attorney who makes around $300 an hour (a fine Phillips Exeter grad who almost certainly has no concept of what it means to be unemployed), hired by a company that grossed 16 million last year (according to the store manager), intimidating and threatening an unemployed former employee (a father of two young children) terminated under circumstances that others have deemed “questionable.” Defending against this legal onslaught would mean calling current employees for corroboration and needlessly placing them in difficult situations with their present employer.

Again, these are not criticisms, per se, just facts. We hope this company, its managers, and its owners take some responsibility for the mess on their hands.

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