Love’s Labour’s Lost (and Won)

It can be risky to mix business with pleasure, which is perhaps why Valentine's Day seems to pose special challenges in the workplace. There are some obvious pitfalls, like unwise office romances or inappropriate Valentine's gifts, but it turns out there are also plenty of other Valentine-related workplace incidents that are a little more unusual. Below are four Canadian claims that prove that the course of true love never did run smooth -- at least not at work.  

1. An employee who belonged to United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (Local 175) lost his job at a meat processing facility "for carving words or symbols into various pieces of meat" during the course of his shift on Valentine's Day 2011. One of these carvings was a festive "I [heart] u", while the other carving was a picture of a face. This unusual twist on the traditional Valentine card format did not win over the heart of his employer and he was dismissed a few weeks later. The matter eventually went to arbitration and the employee's job was reinstated after the arbitrator found that his artistic efforts did not constitute reason for discharge.

2. In 2010, one Toronto business owner came up with an innovative Valentine's marketing scheme: requiring his (primarily female) employees to wear buttons that read "A kiss gets you 14% off". Although the owner of the business intended it to be a joke, certain customers didn't take it that way. One employee who had to endure customers' unwelcome advances in the days leading up to Valentine's Day filed an application with the Human Rights Tribunal alleging workplace discrimination. The kissing discount incident formed part of her claim that she experienced a poisoned work environment.

3. If you buy a dozen roses this Valentine's Day, take a moment to think about the worker tasked with cutting and prepping all of those flowers. In BC, a worker filed a claim under the Workers' Compensation Board Act after experiencing a repetitive stress wrist injury. Cutting flowers was a routine part of her job in the floral department of a grocery store, but the number of flowers she had to prepare increased significantly during the Valentine's season. The employee claimed that she was spending up to six hours per day cutting flowers with a “dull chopper”. Although her WCB claim was initially denied, the denial was overturned on appeal.

4. According to some legends, St. Valentine was jailed by the Roman state in the first or second century AD. Perhaps feeling a sense of fellowship with the imprisoned saint, an inmate at the former Leclerc Institution filed a grievance in 2008 "against the secular use of the [prison] chapel on Valentine's Day". This inmate participated in a program that allowed him to receive a small amount of remuneration for performing cleaning duties, and a few weeks after filing the Valentine's Day grievance, he was suspended from those duties. Claiming he was suspended from his cleaning job as a reprisal for the grievance he filed, he took the matter before the court, but ultimately the ruling was not in his favour. Of course, with the legal issue around reprisal settled, the question still remains: is it appropriate to use a chapel on Valentine's Day for secular purposes? It probably depends on who you ask -- although Anglican and Lutheran denominations do officially celebrate the feast of St. Valentine's, it hasn't been on the Catholic liturgical calendar since 1968.