June 15, 2004
The following is being distributed at the request of the Human Rights Commission:
The Human Rights Commission comments upon the decision of Mary O�Brien, the Board of Inquiry appointed to hear the complaint of Bailey et al v. Fogo Island Co-operative Society. Ms. O�Brien released her decision on June 4, 2004 outlining a specific remedy for each of the 33 women named as complainants in the matter.
The 33 fish plant workers filed a complaint in the summer of 1999 with the commission alleging that their employer, the Fogo Island Co-operative Society discriminated against them on the basis of their marital status. The women were advised that a new Co-op policy dictated that if they were to resume their seasonal employment with the fish plant, their husbands - all of whom were fishermen - would have to sign documents promising to sell their fishing catch to the Co-op. At the time the women filed their complaints they had an average of 14.6 years of service.
The commission investigated their complaints and referred the matter to a Board of Inquiry. Ms. O�Brien released her initial ruling in May 2001 finding that the Co-op had discriminated against the 33 complainants on the basis of their marital status. She retained jurisdiction to fashion a remedy for each of the complainants. Over the next year and a half several weeks of hearings took place, with 36 witnesses giving evidence and 202 documents filed in support of the parties� positions.
Ms. O�Brien ruled that each complainant was entitled to $5,000 general damages, interest, a letter of apology from the Co-op and lost wages and tax gross up where appropriate.
The commission is pleased with the outcome of the adjudication of these complaints as it confirms that individuals are to be treated on the basis of their individual capabilities and limitations - as opposed to the conduct of their spouses - and it achieves the difficult task of tailoring a remedy for each complainant.
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2004 06 15 2:15 p.m.