WARNING: This article contains details of sexual harassment and assault.
Overt misogyny and a history of sexual harassment being upheld by management has given grounds to two of many plaintiffs who believe the owners of the Mattick’s Farm Red Barn Market should have intervened in one manager’s grotesque behaviour.
Matthew Schwabe was the son of one of the owners of the Red Barn Market located at Mattick’s Farm who was caught filming young female employees of his while using the washroom or changing. He would then secretly upload these images to pornography websites.
Schwabe was caught and reported by Jennifer Madill and Mallory Fulmore — the plaintiffs in this class action lawsuit — and eventually six young women in total were identified of the many women he filmed in February 2016.
The youngest among these women was allegedly 15-years-old at the time.
Following a police investigation and a trial, he was sentenced to 15 months in jail followed by two years of probation as of November 2021.
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The plaintiffs and other former Red Barn Market employees were deposed for the purposes of this lawsuit moving forward and through this process, they revealed numerous occasions of sexual harassment and misogyny.
Occasions of misogyny and sexual harassment
Schwabe was a produce manager at the grocer and was hired because his father, Samuel Schwabe, was one of the four owners who purchased the business in 2009. It is alleged that because his father was the owner and he himself was a manager, Schwabe was not penalized for his grotesque actions.
Schwabe was known to constantly make remarks about young women’s bodies who were employees or customers. He once was quoted as saying that, “he could not help” making comments about the clothing and appearances of female workers due to the fact he was “surrounded by a bunch of hot young girls in tight pants,” according to the Supreme Court Judgement.
He was also frequently harassing young female employees and using his and his father’s positions of power at the business to remove the women he harassed from the schedule, effectively terminating them without cause.
On one such occasion, he exposed his penis to a young female employee while having a conversation with her. She tried to leave the situation and act busy, but he blocked the only exit for her, penis still exposed and continued the conversation for another five minutes.
This employee complained to her direct supervisor who dismissed the interaction saying, “boys will be boys.” She then elevated the complaint to the general manager, but nothing was done and she slowly had her shifts taken away until she was removed from the store’s schedule entirely.
Another occasion of blatant misogyny occurred when an employee witnessed an owner of the Red Barn Market, who was not named in the Supreme Court Judgement, commenting on a 16-year-old female employee’s body.
It was reported that he watched her from behind as she bent over and said, “Wow, how can you handle working around that?”
Samuel Schwabe, former owner of the grocery store, was also reported for his inappropriate behaviour and actions were also found out in the deposition of the former Red Barn employees. He once asked a 19-year-old female employee for her phone number saying they could, “text outside of work hours and maybe hang out.” He was in his 40s at the time of this request.
This same employee said that the whole atmosphere of the store felt sexualized. She said male managers and owners were always, “commenting on young women’s bodies and generally making sexualized remarks” or “innuendo.”
She added that Samuel Schwabe would make “lewd comments” about younger girls frequently.
Supreme Court’s decision
Given this background, the two plaintiffs seeking a class action lawsuit were attempting to prove that their case is a worthy one.
They seek to show the owners and management of Red Barn Market’s Mattick’s Farm location were negligent and thus complicit in what would escalate to images of near-naked employees being uploaded to pornography websites.
The owners of the Red Barn Market at Mattick’s Farm refute this class action lawsuit, claiming they should not be liable for the actions of one of their employees who acted on his own accord.
The plaintiffs and the Honourable Mr. Justice Brian D. MacKenzie both disagreed with this stance from Mattick’s Farm Red Barn Market.
“Having regard to the totality of the circumstances, I am satisfied the plaintiffs have demonstrated that the cause of action for vicarious liability is properly pled and supported by the evidence that has been presented,” reads Justice MacKenzie’s judgment.
Justice MacKenzie said he believes the plaintiffs’ facts and arguments meet the criteria for a class action lawsuit of ‘vicarious liability’ and negligence.
According to the judgment, Matthew Schwabe declined to respond to the action or participate in any way.