Ottawa woman sues Value Village, two managers for sexual harassment

An Ottawa woman is suing Value Village and two Ottawa store managers, alleging sexual harassment and racial and religious discrimination.

The thrift store on Bank Street terminated the woman's employment and she was charged with theft and fraud.  The plaintiff is seeking more than $200,000 in damages after what her lawyer says was the worst case of sexual harassment he has seen, and says he's aware of at least one other woman pursuing legal action as well.

Shimaa Elazzab, 33, says she was pursuing her dream in Canada, climbing the corporate ladder at the Value Village on Bank Street, promoted to a supervisory role after just 3 months.

That dream, she says, came crashing down after 5 years when a new manager started at the store.

“My dream, he ruined it,” she says.

Elazzab has launched a civil lawsuit against Value Village and two store managers for $218,000, alleging sexual harassment and racial and religious discrimination.

“It started small,” she explains, “with touching and it was a shock for me.”

“This is one of the more severe cases of sexual harassment I’ve seen,” says Daniel Tucker-Simmons, Elazzab’s lawyer in the civil lawsuit.  Tucker-Simmons says Elazaab was subjected to a poisoned work environment through sexually harassing behavior by her two managers who she alleges, among many complaints :

-wanted to see her in tighter clothing

-told her she smelled like "dirty sex"

-grabbed and rubbed her leg

He says that a series of text messages allegedly sent by one of the managers pointedly offered her money for sex.

“Very, very explicit and extremely inappropriate,” says Tucker-Simmons, “and it certainly amounts to sexual harassment.”

The lawsuit also alleges her human rights were violated by those same managers who she says:

-asked her not to speak Arabic because Canada was an English-speaking country

-asked her to take off her hijab and show her hair

-threatened to fire her if she didn't dress up for Hallowee'en

The Statement of Claim then says one of managers accused her of acting against store policy, saying she was helping customers steal from the store, giving certain customers discount and claiming he had video to prove it. 

In December of 2017, Elazzab was contacted by Ottawa Police.  She was charged, according to the Statement of Claim, with fraud and theft based on the videos supplied by the managers.  Elazzab vehemently denies that she did anything wrong.  The case goes before the courts next week.  Her criminal lawyer, Joseph Addelman says she plans to plead not guilty.

In a statement, Value Village said: 

“We have clear policies that articulate our zero tolerance for acts of harassment or discrimination in our workplace, and as a matter of practice, thoroughly investigate any claims or concerns of this nature."

Elazzab says she did complain many times but to no avail.  None of the allegations has been proven in court.

CTV Ottawa did reach out to the store in question and the managers there as well.  The store declined our offer for an interview.