Was a Waiter Fired for Being Rude or For Being French?

A French waiter, working in Canada was fired for being “aggressive, rude and disrespectful.” That sounds like a great reason to fire a waiter. But Guillaume Rey filed a complaint saying that he was really fired for being French, and that’s just how French people are.

He doesn’t claim that he wasn’t “aggressive, rude, and disrespectful.” He does claim that, as a result of his culture and French training, that he “tends to be more direct and expressive.” Or, as Canadians call it, rude.

I will say, flat out, I don’t know if he will win his complaint, as I don’t know the rules of Canadian employment law, but I think it’s worth discussing. When do we get to claim culture for the way we act, and when do you need to comply with the local culture?

It’s not an easy question, and sometimes we don’t even know to ask it.

To keep reading, click here: Was a Waiter Fired for Being Rude or For Being French?

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14 thoughts on “Was a Waiter Fired for Being Rude or For Being French?

  1. I have been to France a few times and can honestly say I have never encountered a rude server.

    1. Me, too! I have found the French to be very pleasant and polite. The only cranky one I ever encountered was the young woman working at the Hertz counter the day all the trains were on strike.

  2. In every wrongful termination case in the United States, the true inquiry is, what was the actual reason for the termination? Was it unacceptable conduct on the employee’s part or impermissible discrimination? If you’re firing an immigrant for failing to adequately adapt to their new country’s “culture,” you may be treading on thin ice, if the alleged failure to adapt is a function of the employee’s race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age or other legally-protected class.

  3. Grannybunny your thought has a few flaws. First, if “firing an immigrant to failing to adequately adapt” to culture is wrong, than who would ever be willing to hire an immigrant? It’s not on an immigrant’s employer to help such an employee adapt. Its on the immigrant.
    Second, if the restaurant has trained its employees on how they are to interact with customers and this guy isn’t complying with their direction, I think the restaurant has standing to fire him. He’s not meeting their expectations and if they lose customers over his manners, they have solid ground.

    This is no different than Americans who travel abroad and behave like Americans expecting the other country to conform to how we are. He may be French, but he’s in Canada. The Canadian standard for “manners” applies, not that of the French just because this guy happens to be French.

    1. If it’s illegal to fire an immigrant because of cultural differences, it’s also illegal to not hire them for that same reason, isn’t it? (Harder to prove, sure, unless they’re idiots, but still illegal.)

      I’m inclined to side with the restaurant, if only because he was (apparently) warned repeatedly that his behavior wasn’t acceptable. And even in California, people in public facing jobs can face rules that would be unacceptable in other circumstances (like Disneyland classifying virtually all employees as “cast members” so they can strictly control appearance, like “no facial hair”).

    2. Agreed. Right now there’s a case in the courts of an immigrant gynecologist from a country that performs female genital mutilation — and that’s why she’s in court, because she was caught mutilating several little girls (I think they were all about six and seven years old). It’s part of their culture and religion. But they came here, where we recognize the practice as barbaric. So, she’s fired. And, in court. As it should be.

      When in Rome, do as Romans do. If you don’t like what Romans do, don’t move to Rome. Simple. Easy.

      1. Jamie, I’m so horrified by this. I hope she goes to jail.

        Not all cultures are equal and we should stop pretending they are.

      2. Yes, unacceptable — in this case, illegal — conduct, as opposed to mere cultural differences related to status, such as speaking understandably, but with an accent.

  4. Oh man, I’d love the whole leisurely dining thing. American restaurants like fast turnover and don’t want you to linger. I don’t eat out much and when I do, I like to take my time.

    I’m with you on this one. I also find it interesting because you’re in a unique position to comment on adaptation, both from an HR and an expat viewpoint.

    I don’t know if Canadian employment is at-will. I don’t know about French restaurants in Canada, or in France for that matter. I do wonder if he’d been spoken to about it previously and he blew it off, or this were the first time. But the prevailing culture is generally going to set the tone.

  5. Knowing nothing about Canadian law (I’m in the U.S.), I’ll just speak in general terms. Of course an employer has a right to require that their wait staff be polite to customers. The employer has a right to require them to wear a uniform, be cordial, deliver food, etc. To say that employer discriminates by requiring a certain level of courtesy is absurd. Any case law that would dictate that an employer is held hostage to whatever culture-based behaviors a person brings with them would be equally absurd.

  6. “It’s not an easy question….” Uh, yes, it is an easy question. 1) Rude the first time, explain, train, observe. 2) Rude the second time, to what address should we send your final check?

  7. Interesting! I’d like to know which part of Canada. I grew up about half an hour south of the Quebec border. My French teacher taught us that, often, French people considered Quebecois rude in their speech. For example, saying only “excuse” instead of “excuse moi” when trying to get around someone.

  8. This is a personal employer, they have the right to hold employees to a certain standard. I feel as if this is an excuse because I have not found this to be true at all. I am also confident that if you check with the employer this was not the first time.

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