Monday, February 2, 2015

Cackalack For A Job - Nightmare In The Workplace

Originally posted: June 30, 2013 at 11:58am

A few weeks ago news reports told the story of a prominent businessman who had been arrested for incest with his daughter. Committing this most despicable of acts daddy-loose-draws remains unnamed because of provisions in the law which dictate that both the victim and alleged perpetrator remain anonymous until a verdict is reached in the case. Don't worry, St. Lucia is a small place and we all know the salop! This jolted my mind to recall the intention which I have had for a very long time to write on a serious malaise which is very prevalent in St. Lucian society. In fact this has gone beyond simply a malaise and has attained epidemic proportions.

More than twenty years ago in St. Lucia I was friends with a rather attractive young lady who had been seeking employment in Castries. She recounted to me one day about an interview which she had a few hours earlier. It was at a business place in the vicinity of Vigie Airport/La Clery/Vide Bouteille. Going through the usual interview motions and cheerful banter with the boss made her feel confident that this job was almost hers. Towards the end he suggested that she return after 5 PM so that he would be less distracted with the responsibilities of work, and be able to confirm that she was indeed able to perform her duties if she was indeed hired. Feeling elated about this rather promising prospect she agreed to return.

It was promptly 5 PM when she was called into his office and the door closed behind her. After a few phone calls he directed his attention to my aptly bosomed friend and was down to business in next to no time with suggestive comments about her looks and then asked her to take a ride with him. He indicated that they could go have some drinks and then take a drive down to the Vigie quarry (the abandoned quarry near the Vigie airport hangar). Well my friend was having none of that bulshittery; she told him where to stuff his drinks and what to do with himself in the quarry.

This businessman has been well known, in fact notorious, for preying on women in search of employment. If there were a Nobel prize for sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour he would have received it.

Many of our St. Lucian women have endured this same type of harassment in seeking employment, and lamentably some have fallen victim to these sexual advances because of their financial situations. Having secured jobs under this duress they are now continually pressured to have sexual relations with the boss or supervisor in order to retain their employment. Eventually this situation becomes untenable resulting in frustration and anger about their predicament.

The reactions, when confronted with such advances, can be varied and evokes different emotions. Some women may walk out of the interview, others may be numbed with surprise, and others will let the offender have a piece of their sharp tongue. And then of course there are those who may just lay down on the office table and spread it or go for drinks and that ride to the Vigie quarry. Lets not be naive here, there are some women who will enjoy the temporary power of being with the boss because they may receive preferential treatment and have certain 'perks' on the job. Sometimes the wanton fraternizing with female staff is well known on the job and usually degenerates into an all out conflict for the affections of the boss or supervisor.

Then there are those who decide to just close their eyes and do it one time, just to get in. Unfortunately the unscrupulous boss sees this as another conquest to be had at his whims and fancies. Eventually this woman decides to cut off the sexual encounters with her boss because she may feel guilty, have a new boyfriend, or just decide that she no longer wants to continue having sexual relations. This is when the retaliation begins. Persons who no longer want to 'pass-it' are victimized, given menial tasks, or fired.

Posting the preview to my Sunday topic last Wednesday I was bombarded, within minutes, with private comments from persons anxious to share personal experiences. They mentioned names , businesses. Surprisingly an overwhelming number of complaints mentioned government departments. It seems there are some notorious senior civil servants known by all and sundry. My information is that many complaints have been lodged against a particular individual...all for naught. Could it be that it's just another old boys' club and complaints to the higher ups are squashed because they are all in it together. Would the lack of action equate to the sexual abuse cover ups which went on for more than one hundred years in the Catholic church?

Within five minutes of posting here is what someone commented:
Like your topic...........this is prevalent at my work place where the head man is concerned......the young women who have just left school and come to (**government department**) are targeted by the sicko.....especially those who have financial difficulty......making all kinds of suggestive remarks, promises, asking for phone numbers and requests to meet after work.........the young people are afraid to come forward and he continues and just denies..........sometimes I wish it was a relative for me to tumble down in his ass this shit upsets me. The worse part is that reports have been made to people higher than him and I guess nothing can be done without hard evidence. The thing is everyone in the department is aware...........and no one is's expected
Here is what someone else commented:
I have lost a lot of respect for a number of people that are involved in the cover up, of not just that, but corruption too. People we all grew up having the utmost respect for.

This is just the tip of the iceberg as these stories have been recounted over the years many times, but what does one do about being faced with a situation like this? Where is a report made after such pressures and brought to bear? What penalties do the perpetrators face?

I contacted Flavia Cherry of the Caribbean Feminists Research and Action (CAFRA) about my story and this is what she said:

In Saint Lucia sexual harassment is a criminal offence. It is also recognized as unlawful discrimination. The laws governing sexual harassment are the Criminal Code and the Equality of Opportunity and Treatment in Employment and Occupation Act .

Protection under the Criminal Code Chap 3:01
 Sexual harassment is a criminal offence which carries a penalty of imprisonment for one year. The relevant section in the Criminal Code applies to employers, supervisors and prospective employers.

Protection for employees
It is a criminal offence for an employer or supervisor to make it reasonably appear to a person that that person’s prospects or working conditions depends on the person’s acceptance or tolerance of sexual advances or persistent sexual suggestions from the employer or supervisor. The employer or supervisor (as the case may be) would have committed sexual harassment and may be imprisoned for one year.

Protection for job seekers/ prospective employees
It is also a criminal offence for a prospective employer to make it appear to a job seeker or a prospective employee that the offer of employment or the terms of the employment depends on the person accepting or tolerating sexual advances or persistent sexual suggestions from him. The prospective employer would have committed sexual harassment and may be imprisoned for one year.

Protection under the Equality of Opportunity and Treatment in Employment and Occupation Act 2000
The penalty for sexual harassment under the Equality of Opportunity and Treatment in Employment and Occupation Act is a fine of $5,000.00.

Remedies available to a victim of sexual harassment
A victim of sexual harassment can receive damages for losses suffered as a result of the sexual harassment. The court may even order that the employer or relevant person make amends by employing, re-employing or re-instating the person who was sexually harassed (as the case may be).
Of course sexual harassment is not only limited to women. Both men and women can be subjected to this same treatment and my focus here today in no way minimizes the seriousness of any kind of sexual harassment endured by men.

Victims can also call the CAFRA office for further guidance and support (758) 453-1608.
Of course the police can always be called in an emergency.

According to calypsonian Singing Sandra in her song 'Die With My Dignity' (1987)

"It have a lot of women just like me
Who might not be so well off financially
You need a job and you really need it bad
Ah man decide to help you must be glad
But if you value yourself as a woman you will be demanding respect from the vagabond
Stand up to them and let them know the truth
Is work you want you ain't no blinking prostitute...."