ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — A U.K. tribunal has rejected the claim of a Newfoundland-born woman who alleges she suffered a decade of harassment at her civil service office in Scotland — including once being taped to a chair.
The Scottish Employment Tribunal ruled against DeeAnn Fitzpatrick's complaints of a racist and misogynistic workplace culture at Marine Scotland's office in Scrabster.
Fitzpatrick, a fisheries officer originally from Bell Island, N.L., claims co-workers mocked her for having a miscarriage, used racist language, and threatened female staff members.
A photo published by the BBC in May showed Fitzpatrick taped to a chair with tape over her mouth — an incident she claims was a response from two male co-workers for "[speaking] out against the boys.''
The photo prompted an outcry in the U.K., but it and much of her evidence was ruled inadmissible as too dated and her claim was ultimately rejected.
Fitzpatrick, who has been on leave from her job since last year, said Thursday she and her lawyers are now considering an appeal.
"A lot of people have asked me if I want to go back to my job and the response is yes. That's my professional career, it's in tatters at the moment because of what other people have done, not because of what I've done," Fitzpatrick said.
"Why should I leave something that I've done well at because other people are trying to hide the fact that they're bullies?"
Fitzpatrick said she became a target when she reported two men to her union after witnessing their threatening behaviour towards another female colleague.
"It's horrifying that you're in that situation and you're stuck in that situation because the area that I'm at, it's very difficult to find work."
A statement from her family says they are "hugely disappointed" by the result, although they are not surprised, given a judge had decided older evidence would not be allowed.
The family's statement says the tribunal highlighted that the human resources department could have been more proactive in dealing with the matter by launching an investigation, questioning staff and reminding staff that such matters might be regarded as grounds for disciplinary action.
The restrictions ruled out any evidence older than three months to the date of complaint, so the tribunal case focused on eight cards with threatening and insulting messages that Fitzpatrick received at home in 2017 while on leave.
The tribunal ruled against Fitzpatrick's case because the people who wrote the cards could not be specifically identified or linked to people from her workplace.
But Fitzpatrick said she and other colleagues think the cards were likely written by people from work — two cards used insulting nicknames particular to her office, including one calling her a troll.
Others included misogynistic language, one referred to a poem her alleged harassers wrote about her after a promotion, and another depicted her with male genitalia.
After the photo went viral, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was "absolutely horrified," and ordered a review of Fitzpatrick's case.
"Bullying, abuse, sexism, racism, have no place in any workplace, and let me be very clear today, they will not be tolerated within the Scottish government and within our agencies," Sturgeon told Scottish Parliament in May.
Fitzpatrick said a report on the review is due soon.
"I'll only feel positive once the outcome of the result of the investigation, that they find there was harm done, what was done was highly inappropriate, and measures are put in place to ensure that it never happens again," she said.
Fitzpatrick also wants an investigation into all the events she's reported, not just a select few such as the cards or the incident with the chair.
"That's not how you treat women, that's not how you treat anybody," Fitzpatrick said Thursday.
Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press