How an Instagram account started a city-wide controversy about a local restaurant

By Bryn Ormiston

Stella’s Café & Bakery has been under fire recently for multiple harassment claims./ BRYN ORMISTON

On Nov. 8, 2018, an Instagram account, @notmystellas, started posting multiple photos on their Instagram feed with stories of harassment from past and present staff at Stella’s. The account is ran by local women who are current and ex-employees of Stella’s, one of Winnipeg’s most popular restaurants.

Within days, the follower count of the Instagram page grew by thousands. Hundreds of posts were made highlighting experiences of sexual harassment and assault, transphobic harassment, unsafe and illegal work conditions, racism, and misogynistic comments.

Hannah Gray, a 19-year-old University of Winnipeg student, worked at Stella’s at the Pembina Highway location for four months. Gray quit one month ago.

“I couldn’t take it anymore. I got yelled at and management swore at me for forgetting two pieces of bread,” said Gray. “On multiple occasions I was humiliated and joked about for not knowing how to do a job I wasn’t properly trained for.”

During her four month employment at Stella’s, Gray said she never had a break. In Manitoba, breaks are legally required after five consecutive hours of working. Gray often worked without having any food or water for eight hours because she was afraid of what the repercussions from management would be.

“At times I would sneak food into my apron to eat in the bathroom stall just to have enough energy to continue working,” said Gray. “I’d have to hide from managers to simply drink water because we weren’t allowed to drink water in front of customers.”

There is a common trend in the posts on the @notmystellas Instagram page about management at Stella’s. A large amount of the accusations said management liked to keep staff on their toes by reminding them they’re replaceable if they make small mistakes. Gray said staff hired as full-time had their hours cut in half if they made an error, so they wouldn’t get comfortable.

“At one point there was a paper on the expo line that had a list of all the server’s names with a checklist of how many mistakes per shift they made,” said Gray. “This was to track how well they were doing in order to see who would get more hours.”

Stella’s CEO Grant Anderson and regional manager Brad Burrows were named hundreds of times by the people sending stories to the @notmystellas Instagram page. They are being called sexist, racist, homophobic, and transphobic bosses who made Stella’s an uncomfortable and unsafe workplace. Gray said she never worked with Anderson or Burrows, but doesn’t doubt the accusations made about them.

“I believe I met them once, but they made no point of introducing themselves as to who they were,” Gray said. “It was like they were trying to be undercover, like they were trying to catch people making mistakes.”

Stella’s put Anderson and Burrows on an indefinite leave and said they will be looking further into the accusation. The @notmystellas page is asking for more. They want immediate termination of the bosses and said they will keep fighting until their demand is met.