• Nick Zacharias

Frontline workers banned from bank


Lyda Gusman and her partner Éric Bourguet were repeatedly turned away and denied service at their bank branch in Vaudreuil-Dorion, with staff reportedly telling them they were unwelcome because they presented too high a COVID-19 risk as frontline hospital workers.

When Lyda Gusman went to her bank branch last February, she didn’t expect to be turned away at the door. According to Gusman, who works in the archives at Lakeshore General Hospital, when she tried to enter the Scotiabank branch on Boulevard de la Gare in Vaudreuil-Dorion she was denied entrance because an employee feared her job meant she could be a transmitter of COVID-19.

Said Gusman, “I couldn’t believe it. They had someone at the door to screen customers, to make sure they washed their hands. But when I tried to go in, a teller knew who I was and she started shouting across the bank to not let me in.”

Gusman reports that the teller insisted she could not come in or use the bank machine. Said Gusman, “She was screaming in front of other customers, ‘Don’t let her in because she works at the hospital - she could have COVID’ and yelling to me, ‘You have to get out of here!’” Taken completely aback, Gusman left the bank.

That was in the very early days of the pandemic when many were struggling to understand and adapt to the sudden appearance of a frightening new virus. As time went on however, things did not improve for Gusman, or for her partner Éric Bourguet, who also works at the Lakeshore in the Intensive Care Unit.

Repeated refusals

“We tried to go back, because you can’t do everything with the bank online. The last time was in June, and still they wouldn’t let us in and told us it was because we work at the hospital.” Gusman asked to speak to the manager to ask how she could be treated that way and if they really wanted to force her to take her business elsewhere. “But the manager was away, and the replacement manager just told me ‘Don’t come back here.’” She said they told her she could do whatever she wanted with her business but they wouldn’t let her in. “It’s like they think, ‘we have enough customers, we don’t care.’ I was crying that day.”

Respect for frontline workers

What Gusman said is most frustrating is that when she goes to other businesses they give frontline workers great respect. “When we go to Costco we get front-line priority, and the same elsewhere, because they know we are working to help people in the pandemic.” She also feels the denial of service is misdirected discrimination underlining that, as a hospital, her place of work in fact has stronger health and safety protocols than almost anywhere else.

Looking for a solution

Gusman took her complaint to Scotiabank’s head office in Toronto, explaining how amplified fears of the Coronavirus resulted in her mistreatment. “They told me they would look into it,” she said. In the meantime, she has started driving out of her way to the next closest branch in Pincourt to get service, even though it’s far from her Vaudreuil-Dorion home.

“Last week finally the head office called me back,” said Gusman, “but they told me they didn’t have any resolution yet at that branch. They asked where I was banking now, and when I told them I’ve been going to the branch in Pincourt, they told me, ‘I’m sorry for your experience, but maybe it’s best if you just keep going to the other branch.’”

Scotiabank’s media contact office told The Journal they cannot comment on individual customer experiences due to privacy concerns, but sent an email saying, “In appreciation of the courageous efforts of our frontline healthcare workers, Scotiabank offers physicians, nurses, paramedics and other healthcare personnel priority line service through our contact centre, to support their banking needs and ensure they receive the dedicated and timely service they deserve.”

Gusman felt her treatment in person was anything but deserved, and she isn’t sure what to do next. She says she’s pretty sure it won’t involve returning to the branch on Boulevard de la Gare though. “I don’t think I ever want to go back to that branch. I just want everyone to know how they are discriminating against people there because it’s not right.”

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