Trinidad: A man files a sexual harassment complaint against a female colleague

(Trinidad Express) The Court of Appeal has upheld its ruling in a challenge against the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) after it rejected a complaint brought by a man who said he had been sexually harassed by a female colleague.

The complaint brought by Rishi Persad Maharaj was dismissed in November last year by Justice Donna Prowell-Raphael after the judge found that filing the complaint was an abuse of the process.

Prowell-Raphael had also discovered that Maharaj had incorrectly named the defendant in the complaint before she disposed of the matter.

At the Court of Appeal yesterday, Maharaj’s attorney, Douglas Mendes SC, asked Magistrates Alice Yorke-Soo Hon, Nolan Bereaux and Prakash Moosai who presided over the Maharaj challenge, to overturn the commission’s ruling.

Following submissions, the three-judge panel set aside their verdict up to a date to be determined.

Maharaj claimed to have been employed as a quality control manager with Banquet and Center Conference at the Cascadia Hotel, and was harassed continuously by the woman between March and September 2015.

But just hours after expressing his dissatisfaction with the woman’s behavior to another employee, he was fired from his job.

According to his complaint, the woman often used inappropriate words towards him such as “bay”, “baby”, “hot” and “sexy”. She said she would also slap his buttocks and pin it on the middle.

Abuse of the process

A month after being terminated from office, Maharaj filed a complaint with the EOC, alleging sexual harassment and unfair dismissal.

The following month, December 2015, he reported a trade dispute through his union to the Ministry of Labor over how he had been dismissed.

In the end, he received about $ 50,000 in compensation from his employers for the dismissal.

But despite this, Maharaj continued to pursue compensation in the EOC for loss of future earnings.

It was on this basis that the commission reached its ruling on process point abuse.

Justice Prowell-Raphael found that Maharaj had already received compensation for the dismissal and was therefore not entitled to “double compensation.”

In his submissions, however, Mendes said Prowell-Raphael was wrong in dismissing the complaint as a whole.

He said his client was seeking compensation for loss of future earnings and not for the unfair dismissal as that had already been settled through the Ministry of Labor.

Even if the commission found that Maharaj was not entitled to compensation for loss of future earnings, Mendes said that aspect of his complaint could have been dismissed and allowed the rest of the sexual harassment complaint to go on.

The other reason why the commission decided to dismiss the complaint was because Maharaj had named the Cascadia Hotel as the defendant and not the Banquet and Conference Center.

Although the center is located in the hotel, they are two different entities.

The hotel’s attorney, Shanker Bidaisee, said Maharaj did not even apply to the commission to have the right respondent named as he should have done.

On process point abuse, Bidaisee said the commission had not significantly misconstrued justice.

“It was a settlement complaint when there was already a settlement. That could have been dealt with in the Industrial Court, ”he said.

Senior Counsel Fyard Hosein also made brief presentations on behalf of the EOC.