A piece on the front page in today’s Times:
A French waiter sacked for rudeness has claimed wrongful dismissal on the grounds that he was just being French.
The garçon de café may be renowned for his surly manner and poker-faced intransigence but Guillaume Rey has argued that this should be blamed on culture and training.
Mr Rey said he was dismissed by a Milestones restaurant in Vancouver, Canada, “because of his French culture . . . which tends to be more direct and expressive”.
The restaurant acknowledged he was good at his job but colleagues complained about his attitude, with one driven to tears when she was reprimanded by him, the British Columbia human rights tribunal was told. Mr Rey, who had been warned several times about his behaviour, denied he was disagreeable. He said a manager had told him that he might seem aggressive because of his culture.
The restaurant and Cara Operations, its parent company, have failed to have the case dismissed, with the tribunal referring the matter to a full hearing.
Devyn Cousineau, a tribunal member, noted the restaurant blamed Mr Rey not for his attitude to customers but for the “aggressive tone and nature” of his relationship with colleagues.
Mr Rey said colleagues misunderstood his “direct, honest and professional” French personality. He will be asked to account for how his heritage could lead to behaviour perceived as “a violation of workplace standards of acceptable conduct”.
Friction between English speakers and French waiters has been the subject of jokes since the 18th century. The French attribute this to a misunderstanding of Gallic culture, with its stress on formality with strangers and directness between colleagues. In France, tourist authorities have been trying to improve waiters’ manners, with the result that some have adopted American-inspired habits such as interrupting diners to ask: “How are we all doing?”
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