EOJ rolls out new sexual harassment policy

EOJ rolls out new sexual harassment policy

Friday, October 30, 2020

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STARTING with the management team in November, staff at more than 70 Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) locations across the country will be briefed on the organisation's new sexual harassment policy, crafted after a successfully fought harassment claim triggered a review of the previous document.

“The revised policy seeks to strengthen and outline, in a cleaner way, the processes to be followed, and penalties for the level of breaches,” said Director of Elections Glasspole Brown in a WhatsApp message to the Jamaica Observer yesterday, when asked for an update. “The intention is to quickly complete the exercise, given the importance and the seriousness that the organisation places on the matter.”

The director did not, specifically, address how the updated policy differs from the previous version or from the implications for penalties previously imposed.

The review, done by The University of the West Indies' Hugh Shearer Labour Studies Institute, came after an independent panel recommended training and meted out a two-week suspension for a senior member of EOJ staff who it found guilty of sexually harassing his secretary for months.

In her testimony the young secretary outlined that between July and November 2019, behind office doors closed by the accused, he touched her breasts and buttocks. In her written complaint that led to the hearing she also said he touched her pubic area. She repeatedly told her boss to stop, she said, and had to “fight off” his advances.

The senior employee has denied that he made sexual advances, wanted or unwanted, to his secretary. In a 13-page written response to her formal complaint, he pointed out that he was integrally involved in the drafting of the National Sexual Harassment Policy that was before a parliamentary committee as part of deliberations on national sexual harassment legislation. “I am very conversant with this sensitive and often misunderstood issue and I have been conducting awareness sessions with faith-based, civic and academic institutions in an effort to build awareness, as well as the likely accompanying consequences related to same,” he said.

He also told the Observer, when contacted in early October, that he had not been suspended.

According to Brown, this is the first sexual harassment case he is aware of during his “nearly 11 years in the system”.

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