Pearl's Story

Discrimination in Pearl's WorkplAce

In 1998, I became pregnant and my employer, NSLC, started to treat me differently. They insisted that during the period I was pregnant, my work would not be recorded on my file as having counted toward "work experience". It seemed crazy... for each and every shift I worked during my pregnancy, my employer would not count it toward "work experience" in my employee record.    When I became pregnant a second time, the same thing occurred. My employers said that although I had two full years of work time logged, only seven months of that would count towards "work experience". After I tried to address this unfairness with my supervisors, they began ramping up the harassment. For example, they started taunting me with terms like 'Pregnant Pearl in Pictou",  and they held my performance evaluation criteria to a higher standard than my male counterparts (i.e. my secret shopper score had to be 95, whereas my male counterparts only had to score 85). 

Pearl's Union's Response

When my employer and Human Resources Representatives refused to address or even acknowledge the discrimination, I approached my Union (NSGEU) for help. My union reps told me that they "don't represent for workplace discrimination grievances", and said I'd be smart to just "sweep it under the rug". rather than do their jobs and help me fight the discrimination that was happening to me, they ignored me and then only worked toward getting me to back away from the grievance. Ultimately, they refused to support my discrimination claims, even though I had documented evidence proving them to be undeniable.   

PEarl's Experience with Mediation

The mediation that my union reps ordered to take place -between my employers and myself- was a sham. My union actually negotiated against my will that I would be put back to work under the supervision of my main harasser. I refused to sign an agreement that I essentially had no say in drafting. 

Pearl's Experience with the NS Labour Board

My attempt at filing a misrepresentation complaint against my union hit their 'tall wall" immediately. The gate-keeper at the NS Labour Board told me that because I was pursuing a Human Right's complaint against my employer, I could not concurrently pursue a complaint against my union for failing to fairly represent me against my employer. This ended up not being true, but by the time I learned this I was past the limitation period. 

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

I had a moderate amount of success with my Human Rights Commission (HRC) complaint. Mine was one of the few complaints that year allowed to proceed to a Board of Inquiry. And in the end, mine was the ONLY complaint that was "granted" by a Board of Inquiry that year. So, in effect, my complaint was the only HRC "win" that year, in Nova Scotia, out of around 2000 "inquiries".  Admittedly, this sounds like a good thing for me, but it wasn't. The HRC forced a mediation settlement on me that I didn't think was fair. Also, they still haven't been able to get my employer to put me back to work.

Impact

I became a union member in 1995. When i approached my for help after the discrimination started I was brushed away like *I* was the problem. the treatment by my union made be start to second guess myself and I became severely depressed, as is expected in situations like this. I was officially diagnosed with situational anxiety secondary to harassment. It's important to me that people understand that the betrayal by my union was far more damaging to my mental health than was the original harassment by my employer. My union's betrayal victimized me all over again. They were supposed to defend my workplace human rights and instead they engaged in "gaslighting" in an attempt to make me believe I was the problem. My union's response to my workplace harassment and discrimination was more damaging than the discrimination itself.