Sexual Harassment Misconduct Hits West Coast Grocery Co.

West Coast Grocery Co. Facebook Post on Sunday, January 6, 2019
West Coast Grocery Co. Facebook Post on Sunday, January 6, 2019

On the morning of Sunday, January 6, 2019, West Coast Grocery Co. publicly commented after its week long internal investigation of a sexual harassment misconduct allegation that a now former employee made against the brewpub’s head brewer. The image above is the comment as it’s posted on the brewpub’s Facebook page.

This comment comes one week after the ownership and management of the brewery were made aware of sexual harassment claims from a female co-worker of the now former brewpub’s head brewer, Owen Woods.

Gathering from social media posts the sexual harassment took place on Sunday, December 30, 2018 when Wood repeatedly asked the victim to reveal her breasts to him. Today we found out there were three employees present during the harassment that took place during a shift drink after the brewpub closed for the evening. (A complete statement from the brewpub’s owner Charlie Hyde IV can be found further down in this article)

Since the incident that took place on December 30, 2018, the brewpub’s statements appear to give the benefit of the doubt to the brewer as ownership and management felt it was not an issue to be very concerned about. It was even mentioned that the two are friends so this type of conduct is acceptable among co-workers.  This went on for a few days and then after the victim’s story hit social media it appears that the brewpub decided to take the allegations a bit more seriously.

The victim’s account can be seen from her Instagram account where she wisely created a permanent Instagram story that brings together a timeline of the predatory events that took place from the initial harassment to the final, reluctant firing of West Coast Grocery Co.’s brewer.

Below is one of the initial emails on feedback from the incident that was sent to the victim from the ownership of West Coast Grocery Co.

I wanted to let you know after much thought and consideration between Caitlin, myself and other ownership we have come to a decision to suspend Owen Woods for 1 week without pay and write him up for the inappropriate comment & actions he made towards you on the night of Sunday the 30th. During his suspension he will also be taking mandatory sexual harassment class that I will be overseeing. If he does not show improved behavior or another incident arises, he will be terminated immediately.

One would think that less than a year after the sexual harassment misconduct actions that surrounded Melvin Brewing breweries would begin to take these issues much more seriously. But like many breweries West Coast Grocery Co. is too a very small business. It may not have any steps or rules to follow that is not a good decision when you have so much riding on the line. Trying to sweep a sexual harassment claim under the rug is a very poor decision and one that will rear its ugly head once again.

After this multiple day public relations nightmare, West Coast Grocery Co. posted this message on its Facebook Page on the morning of Sunday, January 6, 2019…

Last week an employee of ours made a grossly inappropriate comment to another staff member. The comment was sexual in nature. Our management launched an investigation and met with both parties to take the next course of action.

West Coast Grocery does not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind. Because of this, the employee has been terminated.

We want to express our deep apologies to the staff member who was the victim of sexual harassment. We take full responsibility for maintaining a positive work environment culture and ensuring that this does not happen again.

We want nothing more than to create a welcoming and safe neighborhood pub for guests and our employees alike.

This message was posted seven days after the confirmed sexual harassment incident and a growing amount of negative feedback on various social media platforms.

West Coast Grocery Co. Facebook Page Post on December 31, 2018
An image still posted on the West Coast Grocery Co. Facebook Page that was posted on December 31, 2018 that shows the now former head brewer.

We reached out to West Coast Grocery to hear their side of the story and received a reply to our inquiry from one of the brewpub’s owners, Charlie Hyde IV. Here is his response to the situation and how he says it has been handled by the brewpub ownership and management. Thought the victim has gone public we feel its best to protect her name.

Last week, Owen and two staff members, including (the victim), were having their shift drink after hours when Owen made the inappropriate comment. Our manager heard about this incident the morning after, and she immediately alerted the owners, who then reached out to both parties to arrange meetings. 

(The victim) was a part-time staff member and her next available meeting date was later in the week. In no way did we shrug this off: we take sexual harassment very seriously and, even if the comment was said among friends, there’s no place for that kind of behavior at this or any other business. 

We met with Owen and (the victim), first separately, then together. We wanted to get both sides of the story as part of the investigation and the following meeting together was a mediation. We wanted to give (the victim) the chance to be heard and for Owen to apologize, something that (the victim) seemed to want as well. At the end of that meeting, we asked for another day to think over a punishment. 

The following day, we issued Owen a week’s suspension without pay while taking a mandatory sexual harassment class. However, I met with my family (the other owners of WCG) and managers this weekend and we made the decision yesterday that the only course of action was termination. While Owen was remorseful and promised to never cross that line again, sexual harassment has no place at WCG and we collectively felt that a suspension wasn’t enough. 

We take full responsibility for what happened and extend our sincere apology to the victim of this sexual harassment incident. We are closing early tonight (at 6 pm) to meet with our entire staff to review and sign a sexual harassment policy. We are a small business and our employees have always had a direct line to the owners, and we hope that trust and feeling of being heard remains in the aftermath of this terrible incident.