Legislation forbidding sexual harassment in the workplace is to be introduced before the next general election due early next year, according to Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo.
Addressing a Democratic Labour Party (DLP) meeting at the George Lamming School Sunday evening, Byer-Suckoo said the problem was widespread, and affected the old and young, and both male and female workers.
Therefore, she said, a Sexual Harassment Bill was its way to deter the practice.
“It is a little bit controversial still, but this is a story I am working to make sure that we can tell before the bell rings [elections].
“There are too many people in this country, women especially, but not just women, a lot of workers in this country who are afraid to go to work because they are harassed on the job,” the Government Senator told the meeting that was advertised as ‘DLP FACTS, Conference 2’.
Byer-Suckoo emphasized that too many women, “men too, young boys, young girls” were being forced to choose between performing duties for the personal pleasure of their supervisors, or lose days off, or even promotions.
“The boss is telling them, ‘I need you to do so and so for me, and if you can’t do such and such, I ain’t sure that you going to get that day off that you want next week’, or ‘I ain’t sure about that promotion that you are supposed to get.’”
She said it was a practice that had its genesis in slavery and lamented that it continued to this day. The new legislation, she promised, would “make sure that it cannot happen, that at least in our workplaces workers are protected”.
Not for the first time, the minister also promised legislation protecting the rights of workers to enjoy their own social and religious pursuits without fear of discrimination.
“Along this vein is the anti-discrimination [legislation] that says you can’t treat a worker any old how or fire them or whatever because you don’t like the colour of their skin.
“As soon as we get this law in the next several weeks we will be saying that you can’t discriminate [against] a person based on colour, class, gender, race, political affiliation – nothing,” she said, without mentioning sexual orientation, a subject she had touched when she . had spoken of this anti-discrimination measure two years ago.
Back then, during a presentation to a Christ is the Answer Family Church discussion at Alexandra School, she had said that the law would cover, “anything, how they look, how they dress”.
“I am not sanctioning same sex unions and homosexuality, that is not what this legislation is supposed to do . . . .What this legislation is saying is that if somebody in your workplace is homosexual we should not be discriminating against them on the grounds that they homosexual.
“It is also gender neutral . . . it is the same for men as it is for women, so whether it is a man discriminating against a woman or a woman discriminating a man, it will hold,” she had said at the time.