A former cashier of an Armstrong convenience store who claimed her boss offered her $2,000 for sex will have her case forwarded to a hearing if mediation services don’t work to resolve the matter.
The complainant, Kiyahna Smith, said she was terminated from Armstrong’s Deep Creek General Store shortly after the alleged incident. However, the respondent and former owner, Wooyoung (Kai) Joung, continues to deny the allegation and argues Smith’s performance was the sole cause for termination.
The Oct. 30 British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal decision notes both parties presented descriptions of events that are at complete odds with each other.
Smith claimed her boss sexually harassed her, created a hostile work environment and terminated her employment.
“Credibility is at issue,” the decision reads. “Essentially, Ms. Smith says Mr. Joung offered her money to have sex with her. Mr. Joung says it is a misunderstanding due to cultural differences between Korean and Canadian Culture.”
Both agree that Joung offered Smith $100 to go for lunch in August 2017. Joung said in his culture, it’s common to show appreciation toward employees by taking them out for lunch or presenting small gifts.
Joung said when he asked Smith to lunch, she responded, “Sure, I’ll have lunch with you for $200,” the report reads.
The respondents said Joung’s limited English skills prevented him from understanding Smith’s joke.
“He was confused and thought she meant she wanted him to pay her a day’s wage for going for lunch,” the report reads. “He said $200 was too much and offered $100 which is about one day of her wages. He was confused why she didn’t take the money.”
On the drive back from lunch, Smith said Joung offered $2,000 to have sex. She refused.
Denying he offered money for sex, Joung said he said something to the effect of “Lunch is worth more than $100,” the report reads. “It was worth $1,000 or $2,000.” He denied there was any sexual connotation in his statement.
Smith confided in a colleague known as Ms. H. When she brought it up with Joung, Ms. H said he told her it wasn’t uncommon for a married man in Korea to pay a woman to go for lunch and perhaps engage in intercourse if both parties consent to it.
Smith noted that shortly after the incident, her hours at the store were cut.
She reported she was falsely accused of having another job with conflicting hours and wrongfully accused of stealing.
Her former boss said he only sent employees home early if the store wasn’t busy and notified the board Smith was sent home for being rude and unprofessional.
Smith denies being rude but said if it came across that way, it was because she didn’t want to keep talking about what he had done before and how he can make things better, the decision reads.
Smith was handed a termination letter at the end of September 2017, six months after she started working at the general store.
Joung’s wife said it was her idea to let the employee go, saying Smith displayed an “insincere work behaviour,” conflicting job and lack of communication.
Joung said Smith mocked his accent and made inappropriate comments and jokes. He said she was rude toward him, customers and co-workers and claimed Smith pretended to vomit when his family ate Korean food in front of her.
“I am not persuaded by the respondents’ argument that this complaint is due to a misunderstanding of Mr. Joung’s Korean culture and his limited English communication skills,” wrote tribunal member Grace Chen, noting both parties should take advantage of the tribunals’ mediation services to come to a conclusion.
The complaint will proceed to a hearing.