Wed | Oct 28, 2020

Sexual harassment reversal - Accused, victims back on job at TPDCo, but case still unresolved

Published:Saturday | November 30, 2019 | 12:37 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Staff Reporter

At the end of January this year, a manager at the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) and two female employees who accused him of sexual harassment were all placed on administrative leave with full pay to allow for an independent investigation into the allegations.

Nine months later, at the start of November, all three were asked to return to work although the women’s claims remain unresolved, executive director of the state-owned company, Dr Andrew Spencer, has confirmed.

“The issue has not been resolved for the same reason the issue took as long as it did ... the lawyers having an issue with the clauses [in the disciplinary procedure for public bodies],” Spencer explained.

He said that the company has since taken the decision to refer the issue to the Attorney General’s Department to have it resolved there.

In the meantime, Spencer assured lawmakers on Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) that the manager and his accusers are “not working closely together”.

Further, he explained that the decision to have them return to the organisation was based on the outcome of the formal probe.

“Having completed the formal investigation, we saw no reason to have them out of the organisation. So they are all back and reassigned,” the TPDCo boss disclosed.

“The individual who has been accused ... is working on a special project on his own.”

Spencer revealed that the management of TPDCo first brought charges against the manager in November last year.

However, he said that the accused manager, through his attorneys, raised a challenge to the disciplinary procedures for public bodies.

According to Spencer, the manager posited the view that the company should not have proceeded “because there was no reason for disciplinary action”.

But the TPDCo boss said the state entity insisted on pursuing the case “because we take these things very seriously”.

“Having pursued and insisted and said we are basing [the] charges on a preliminary investigation, the accused then asked for a formal investigation,” he explained.

Spencer said that was what prompted the decision to place the accused manager and his two accusers on paid administrative leave effective January 31 this year.

“Everybody was asked to leave in the interest of sterilising the space and ensuring that we had the documentation that we needed to do the formal investigation,” he explained.

Spencer said that when TPDCo got the report in the summer, attorneys for the accused manager again raised concerns that the process was flawed and “therefore they have a challenge with how the formal investigation was conducted”.

“I must say that my own feeling about the HR (human resources) process during that time was that it was unfortunately inefficient,” he acknowledged.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com