Jamaica reviewing their sexual harassment law

By Hanan Redwan Published on April 07, 2021
Jamaica reviewing their sexual harassment law

The joint select committee of Parliament in Jamaica currently reviewing the sexual harassment bill has agreed that board members be held accountable in the proposed legislation, even though they technically are not employees of the organizations they serve.

Johnson Smith said the issue should be considered in the context of a chairman harassing a board member and, by extension, of a member making overtures to a worker at the company they serve.

In arguing for the inclusion of this group of persons, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith noted that board members can make the work environment hostile, intimidating, and offensive. 

“Certainly, if I am sitting with a colleague in a board meeting, it is still a work environment, and if they are inappropriate, whether in person or virtually, it is still a work environment,” she said.

Legal Officer in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Georgette Grant, said that board members were not initially contemplated in the bill. 

“That would be a one-off situation in terms of a board member interacting with staff, and it would not be an everyday occurrence in a lot of workplace situations, so it is not something that is covered,” she said.

Crawford was insistent that the harassment threat on boards was real.

Having sat on a board before, sometimes outside of a board meeting, you have no other interactions with members of that board. I am speaking about board members to board members, so if that is not covered in the bill and there is an issue, or there is a case of sexual harassment, I don’t know where else the person who is harassed would go for redress,” said Crawford.

Petrona Sealey-Browne of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and Solicitor General Marlene Lynch-Aldred believe that Section 3 (1) of the bill was sufficient to address the issue the committee members disagreed with their assessment.

Lawmakers Angela Brown Burke and Rhoda Crawford, who sit on the joint select committee, also support board members' accountability explicitly addressed in the legislation. 

“I have seen enough boards at work to know that these things happen, and so I want to make sure that it is covered. It seems now from what is being said that it is not sufficiently covered,” said Brown Burke.

They agreed that amendments could be made if it was the desire of the committee members.

Hanan Redwan

Hanan Redwan

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