When Club Demonstration Services (CDS) took control of the food sample stalls at retail giant Costco this August, they did away with the benches stationed at each stall and forced servers to stand for the entirety of their shifts.
71-year-old sample server Claude Gourdeau, who works at the Costco in the Sainte-Foy district of Quebec City, was puzzled by the change. Several of his colleagues, between the ages of 60 and 75, were suddenly being reprimanded for leaning against tables or walls. "We have beautiful material to work with, nice tables, but they got rid of the benches we had before," he said. "It's a step backwards that I don't understand."
When Gourdeau brought his own bench to work, CDS management made him decide between getting rid of the bench or leaving work for the day. After approaching upper management regarding the issue to no avail, he took his story to a local newspaper. Only then was he granted an exception allowing him to sit at work - after he got a required medical note and filled out a multi-page report required by CDS.
Today only 15 out of 953 CDS employees have been granted such an exception. While it's a step in the right direction, Gourdeau hopes CDS management will change their policies to reflect a better understanding of the health risks of standing for long periods of time. "I hope that things will change, and the public supports us," he said. "People don't understand how we could accept these kinds of work conditions."