One University of the West Indies (UWI) student believes there is a lot more harassment in the workplace of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community than is generally acknowledged.
So convinced is Marisa Hutchinson of this that she has decided to focus on the subject in a thesis as she completes a master’s degree at the regional tertiary institution.
“My reason [for doing the research] is once social research is done in the Caribbean, what little there is are either in general on sexual harassment in the workplace or it is heterosexual women. The research tends to be heteronormative and I want to bridge that gap, because, maybe the persons doing the research could be lesbian, bisexual, gay or trans, but there is not specific focus for them. So, I want to drill down on how they are affected in different ways whether it be by their managers, even clients that kind of stuff,” Hutchinson told Barbados TODAY in a recent interview.
Parliament last month approved the Employment Sexual Harassment (Prevention) Bill, giving Barbadians greater legal recourse if they face sexual harassment at work.
Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo, who piloted the legislation in the Senate, has described the measure as gender neutral, although she has made it clear Government was not sanctioning same sex unions or homosexuality.
However, she said the new legislation would provide protection against sexual harassment based on an employee’s sexual preference.
Hutchinson is not satisfied, however, that the law goes far enough to protect members of the LGBT community, many of whom she claimed were being seen as less competent than heterosexuals, and were being paid less than they deserve.
“Persons thinking they are not as competent at doing what they are employed to do. For some persons that is hard, and there are issues with personal identification and they may not be treated the same in terms of salary [or benefits],” Hutchinson said.
“Yes, being paid less and sometimes not even being hired and it’s hard for those persons to find jobs. If they are they basically have to work for whatever they are being paid as means to an end.”
While throwing her support behind the new legislation, saying it had been long overdue, the UWI student stated that “there still needs to be provisions for everyone, not just people who would identify as heterosexual”.
The Employment Sexual Harassment (Prevention) Act 2017 focuses on the protection of employees in both the public sector and private sector from sexual harassment at their workplace. It aims to provide a framework for the reporting of sexual harassment cases by employees and a method of resolving such cases; and to establish a procedure for the hearing and determination of matters related to sexual harassment.