Man says he was fired for Occupy Calgary

By Dave Beni

Controversy continues as Occupy Calgary enters its fifth week of protest at Olympic Plaza. Marcus Arseneault, a 19-year-old Calgarian associated with the movement, was fired from his job as a coffee barista.

“It is with sincere regret that I must inform you that your employment with Sodexo as Coffee Barista will be terminated immediately,” said the email alledgedly sent to Arseneault. “As your involvement with the Occupy Calgary Movement we cannot have your involvement reflect the company in any way, shape or form.”

The email said Arseneault was not terminated because of his performance but, “In fact you have been a wonderful contribution to the Sodexo team, however, unfortunately due to your involvement with Occupy Calgary we do have to let you go.”

Arseneault read the email on his phone while riding one of two buses he took to get to work for Sodexo at a Mount Royal University cafe.

After initially reading the email, he thought it must be a joke and called his former manager Elric Nielsen to ask. Arseneault said his former manager told him it was not a joke. Arseneault thanked him and hung up.

Nielsen denied sending the letter to Arseneault.

Arseneault became interested in Occupy Calgary as a way to change economic systems and promote greater economic equality, but found he had little time to attend protests due to work commitments.

Arseneault said his former manager called and told him not to come in due to a flood On Nov. 7.

Arseneault took the day to attend a protest at City Hall, participating in a group meditation and later helping read a statement inside Council Chambers. 

He believes the only way his former manager could have discovered his involvement was through media coverage taken during his time at City Hall as he did not speak about his involvement at work. Arseneault said he was terminated the next morning.

Arseneault is currently looking for a job. He has been in contact with lawyers and if he can find one to work pro bono, he is planning to pursue legal action against Sodexo.

Sodexo is a Fortune Global 500 company operating in 80 countries and is one of the largest food service and facility management companies in the world. It operates mostly in hospitals, universities, government facilities and prisons.

“Sodexo North America has been made aware of an alleged ‘termination letter’ relating to an employee in Calgary,” said Sodexo spokesperson Jon Kristjanson in an email.

“While we are currently looking into this matter, this ‘letter’ appears to be a hoax and is inaccurate. We confirm no employee has been fired by Sodexo for involvement with Occupy Calgary.”

Since the incident, Arseneault has set up a tent at Olympic Plaza and is now sleeping there.

He said Sodexo had not contacted him to make him aware of this alleged hoax. Arseneault said he sent an email to Sodexo asking them to clarify his employment status, but they have not responded.

He is waiting to hear back from legal aid and at this point is still planning to pursue legal action against Sodexo.

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