Grocery store and its former manager who filmed women in washroom face class-action lawsuit

Two former employees of the Red Barn Market in Saanich are leading the class-action effort. (CHEK News - image credit)
Two former employees of the Red Barn Market in Saanich are leading the class-action effort. (CHEK News - image credit)

A class-action lawsuit against a Saanich, B.C., grocery store and a former assistant manager who pleaded guilty to voyeurism charges will go ahead after being certified.

A judgment dated Monday from Supreme Court Justice Bryan MacKenzie allows class-action proceedings against Matthew Schwabe and Red Barn at Mattick's Ltd.

Schwabe pleaded guilty to secretly recording young women, including co-workers, in a grocery store washroom and posting those recordings online without consent. Red Barn was where he committed the offences and worked as an assistant manager.

Schwabe was charged in 2016. He was sentenced to 15 months in jail and two years probation. Victoria News reports him being sentenced in November 2021.

The plaintiffs allege a "toxic and misogynist environment was condoned" at the store and management did not act on reports of Schwabe's "inappropriate and sexualized behaviour directed not only to themselves, but other female employees."

A number of allegations are outlined in the judgment, including one of Schwabe exposing his penis to a female co-worker.

A plaintiff claimed in an affidavit the victim of that incident was punished after complaining to the general manager: first her hours were cut, then she was off the schedule entirely.

The plaintiffs claim management knew or should have known about Schwabe's troubling behaviour, which eventually escalated.

None of the allegations outlined in the judgment have been proven in court.

A lawyer for Red Barn at Mattick's declined to comment. CBC News tried to contact Red Barn management multiple times on Monday but did not receive a response.

More potential victims

Sean Hern, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, says he understands the store has changed hands since the voyeurism incidents.

The judgment lays out the store's objections to being included in the lawsuit. It said there was no way management could have foreseen what Schwabe would do, while the number of potential victims — six identified already, and seven more who could be identified — is too small for class-action proceedings.

The judge ruled that the merits of the case itself are to be determined later on in the process and the plaintiffs meet the definition of a class for the lawsuit to be certified.

Hern says the next step he foresees is to get more information from police about the identities of the unidentified seven victims.