Melissa's Story

Discrimination in Melissa's WorkplAce

In 2009, while I was working as a corrections officer at the Nova Institution (a correctional facility for women), I slipped on some ice and injured my ankle while attempting to complete my rounds. Before I was able to recover fully, I was forced to go back to work by my employer. My safety was jeopardized shortly after I returned to work when, because of my unhealed injury, I was unable to secure my footing to defend myself from a physical attack by an inmate. After submitting an ‘unsafe workplace complaint’ to my employer, I started being harassed by my supervisors. I believe the harassment was retaliatory and an attempt to silence me and/or cover up the unsafe protocol that was in place during the inmate attack.  My harassers did several little things including denying that the attack had taken place; accusing me of infractions that had supposedly taken place at work during times when I wasn't even on the premises. My supervisors started to challenge every work related decision I attempted to make. When I requested a work transfer it was denied without reason.  My employer also illegally interfere with my workers compensation claim. Eventually in 2015 I was illegally fired for "medical incapacity" even though the “incapacitation” was from an injury I sustained at work. 

Melissa's Union's Response

In 2013 I contacted my union (UCCO Union of Canadian Corrections Officers) to try to file a grievance against my employer for the injury I sustained; for the unsafe work conditions; for my employer interfering with my worker’s compensation claim; and for firing me based on my physical disability.  My union simply ignored my requests for help. Even after I sent several letters to the president of my local I never received a response. I eventually wrote to the National President of my union who redirected my letter back to my Local President and he replied with the statement: “you sound angry”. My union ignored me. My employer was interfering with my basic human rights, my recovery, and my medical treatments, and my union did nothing to help. 

Melissa's Experience with the NS Human Right's CoMMISSION

In 2011, I contacted the NS Human Rights Commission (HRC) and spoke with an intake officer who apparently eventually notified my employer that I had contacted them. I wasn’t contacted again by the NS HRC. A year later I called the HRC again to get an update, and this time the intake officer said they couldn't do anything because I had an active workers comp claim open, and said that because I was unionized I had to go through my union. The HRC misled me to believe that I couldn’t file an HRC claim while I had a workers comp claim open, and that unionized workers could not file an HRC complaint. Not knowing that this was untrue, I turned to my union for help (which never came). I eventually filed a Duty of Fair Representation complaint against my union to the NS Dept of Labour who denied it on the grounds that I was a federal employee.

Impact

The worse thing was NOT being attacked by the inmate, not the injury, not the harassment by my employer. The worse thing was that all of the supports that were set up to supposedly help me weren’t ACTUALLY there. I was led to believe that the safety nets were there and working, but they weren’t. Every supposed human rights “safety net” was just a big empty space and I ended up face down on the concrete. I am no longer the same person. I used to be tough. Now I have PTSD and my life is upside down.