Equal Opportunity Commission welcomes sexual harassment ruling, aims to resume hearing cases

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Equal Opportunity Commission chairman Ian Roach –

CHAIRMAN of the Equal Opportunity Commission Ian Roach says the commission intends to “move forward and immediately resume” handing of sexual harassment cases.

He has urged victims of sexual harassment to lodge complaints with the EOC.

Roach was commenting on Thursday’s ruling by the Court of Appeal which held that the Equal Opportunity Act covered sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination. The EOC had appealed the decision of Equal Opportunity Tribunal chairman Donna Prowell-Raphael to throw out a sexual harrasment complaint referred to the tribunal by the EOC. The complaint was initially lodged by ex-worker of the Banquet and Conference Centre Ltd (BCCL) at the Cascadia Hotel, who claimed he was sexually harassed by the company’s head of operations.

“This is the reason the courts exist. It provides critical clarification when there is a difference in interpretation of the law,” Roach said.

The EOC said sexual harassment cases at the commission were on hold, pending the judgement by the Court of Appeal.

Roach added, “We at the EOC are very happy with this outcome but more importantly, this is a win for all women and men who are victims of sexual harassment, especially in the workplace.

“The wheels of justice may seem slow at times but this is a perfect example of the court playing its part in upholding equality of treatment for all, as enshrined in our constitution and we can feel proud as we approach 60 years of independence, that we have a judicial system that is quite capable of serving the best interests of our citizens.”

Also commenting on the court’s ruling was the EOC’s director of Legal Affairs, Haran Ramkaransingh who said, “This is a significant moment.

“The Equal Opportunity Act fills legislative gaps to protect persons based on their inherent characteristics.

“Prior to the Act, sexual harassment could only be reported as a criminal offence at the TTPS, if the person was touched. However, ‘the Act’ covers a range of unwelcomed sexual behaviours; verbal, non-verbal or physical contact including unwelcomed touching or grabbing, sexual gestures, suggestive body movements toward a person, asking for sexual favours, insults with sexual comments and so on,” he added.

The EOC said sexual harassment was unwelcomed sexual behaviour that was “offensive, humiliating and intimidating.”

“If you have been sexually harassed at your job, at an educational institution or while trying to access goods and services or accommodation, you can lodge a complaint at the EOC. We will receive, investigate and conciliate the complaint,” the commission assured.