Vancouver store defends decision to fire manager who helped feed homeless

The store says that Justin Grant was subject to a theft and employee purchase policy whose primary purpose was to prevent internal theft and merchandise theft.

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A Vancouver grocery store is defending its decision to fire a manager who alleges he was wrongfully dismissed for helping feed the homeless.

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Justin Grant filed a lawsuit in BC Supreme Court that leveled the allegations against the Your Independent Grocer franchise on Davie Street, where he’d been employed for nearly four years as a manager before being terminated in October.

Grant claimed that he’d been fired following allegations he had stolen $600 worth of store merchandise when in fact he had just been helping feed some homeless people.

He said that with the knowledge of his employer, he had given valueless goods — such as expired but edible food — to homeless people who lived in the alleyway behind the store.

Grant said that in exchange for the food, the recipients did jobs for him, including clearing the alley of needles, feces and tidying the area.

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He says that he was “absolutely devastated” when he was summoned to a meeting in October with no advanced notice of what was going to be discussed, accused of theft and terminated.

But the store has filed a response to the lawsuit claiming that there was just cause for the termination.

The store says that as an employee, Grant was subject to a theft and employee purchase policy whose primary purpose was to prevent internal theft and merchandise theft.

During Grant’s employment, an individual known to the store management as “Forrest” would visit the store, says the response.

Forrest was often confrontational, rude, disruptive and difficult with store staff. The response says that store owner, Jim Liston, instructed the management team, including Grant, that Forrest was not welcome at the store.

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On a number of occasions, Grant provided Forrest with unpaid and valuable merchandise from the store, including merchandise that Grant removed from the shelves or floor of the grocery store, says the response.

The actions of the manager amounted to “serious misconduct” and were insubordinate and at no time did the store maintain an informal policy or practice that condoned Grant’s actions of providing unpaid merchandise to others, says the store.

“The unpaid merchandise taken by the plaintiff from the grocery store and given to Forrest did not consist of “valueless goods.” Rather the unpaid merchandise consisted of salable items which had not expired and could have been sold to customers of the grocery store.

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Loblaw Companies Ltd., the parent company which was named as a defendant, has also filed a response, which says a number of things including that it was not Grant’s employer and did not make the decision to terminate him.

In an email Wednesday, Jenson Leung, a lawyer for Grant, said his client continues to strongly deny any improper conduct or dishonesty.

“Justin always acted with the knowledge of the store management, including the owner Mr. Liston. Justin was not told prior to his termination that the charitable practices were unacceptable.”

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