Sunday, January 29

Victims of sexist harassment in Parcs i Jardins de Barcelona: “We were punished and the harasser was rewarded”

One year after the public company where they work, Parcs i Jardins, and a court recognized that they had suffered workplace harassment and “because of sex” at the hands of a superior, Xènia Navarro and another complainant, who prefers not to give her name, they are back on leave due to anxiety. The stalker, on the other hand, aspires to a definitive promotion through a public square after having been provisionally elevated from manager to territorial manager.

Thirteen former students of the Col legi de Teatre de Barcelona denounce abusive practices

Know more

The Barcelona City Council, on whom the company depends, defends that the provisional promotion was started before the facts were known, but they see in the situation a consequence of their complaint. “We were punished and the harasser was rewarded,” they summarize.

Both employees denounce that when they returned to work after the court ruling, they perceived “isolation”, “bad looks” and were left more alone by sharing the day to day with superiors close to the harasser. They report that the company also changed the destination of colleagues who worked with them and had testified validating the abuses of power and mistreatment. Municipal sources deny that in no case have there been changes of work location for these reasons and at the same time explain that no one can be “penalized” for being friends with a harasser or for having testified one version or another in a trial. This explanation is useless for the victims and they argue that the City Council took months to listen to them and that, furthermore, none of its measures have served to repair what they have suffered.

The superior of the two complainants was sanctioned in the first place for workplace and sexist harassment of Xènia’s partner in a disciplinary file with two “very serious” offenses for which the public agreement provides for a sanction that can range from 26 days of employment and salary until dismissal. But the management of Parcs i Jardins decided to lower the sanction to “serious” and the suspension of employment and salary was 11 days. Finally, the sanction was commuted to a training period of several months to correct their attitudes. After this training, the harasser was temporarily promoted to territorial manager, a position to which he could definitively choose if he is imposed in internal promotions. The victims then decided to take the case to court, which confirmed that the two had suffered workplace and sexist harassment and that, therefore, they should receive compensation.

The Councilor for Equality of Barcelona, ​​Laura Pérez, acknowledges to that it was a “mistake” to lower the sanction and that it would not seem right for the harasser to get a promotion, but that he cannot now modify it or influence decisions of a municipal company. Yes, he has participated and worked intensely, he defends, in improving the protocols so that “these situations do not reappear.” The council approved a new equality plan in February of this year, along with new protocols in cases of discrimination and measures for the internal promotion of women and for the training of workers “on gender issues”. He has also named a new equality technique. The victims and the CGT union, however, question the work done so far by this new figure.

“Show me the panties” and other abuse

Xènia realized that she had also been a victim when she was reporting the situation to the psychologist who prepared the report on her partner’s case. In fact, the psychologist ended up concluding in the report that there was “possible sexual harassment” towards her. The stalker, Xènia says, was a “very manipulative” person who had already been warned about before entering. “Abuse”, “yelling” and obscene comments such as asking him “if he knew how to do French” or “show me my panties” were some of the most serious episodes he experienced.

His partner assures that it all started when the manager told him that he made him nervous because he liked her. She told him that he was wrong and that they were just co-workers. After a refusal to a second insinuation, he began to discriminate against her. “He prevented other colleagues from helping me, he sent me to mow when it rained, he yelled at me and ridiculed …”, he says.

All of this ended up leading to an internal report that concluded that there had been a very serious offense due to workplace harassment that the manager later downgraded to serious. After taking the case to court, the judge assured that the company had acted with diligence but that at the same time the fundamental rights of the victims had been violated. For that reason, it condemned Parcs i Jardins to pay 15,000 euros in compensation to each of them.

The City Council appealed the sentence despite acknowledging errors in the sanction and that has even more outraged the victims. “For us the City Council has been an accomplice, it has washed its hands with us. It has not helped us in any way in the process or in the reparation, ”Xènia denounces.

Their version contradicts what they say from the consistory, where they affirm that an “intense monitoring” was carried out, protocol changes were made and there was psychological care for the victims. Regarding the fact of appealing the sentence, the same municipal sources allege that it is a legal imperative that the legal services file the appeal to justify the possible public expenses in the face of the contradiction that they see in the sentence.

This case is not isolated and the councilor Pérez recognizes that Parcs i Jardins is a “masculinized company with macho and strange attitudes”, but defends the effort of the council to correct it. As a result of the aforementioned case, the protocols were changed so that from now on a commission formed by the union section and the equality technique participate in the sanctions, a new professional also appointed after the case of Xènia and her partner came to the fore. light.

With this protocol already active, and as has learned and municipal sources have confirmed, another worker from Parcs i Jardins touched the same employee -of an external company- on three different occasions in July, August and September of this anus. The sanction he received was slightly higher than the minimum for a very serious offense: 30 days of suspension of employment and salary.

Outside the case, the labor lawyer specialized in gender Laura Rodríguez assures that “when there are touching, there must be a dismissal for there to be a gender perspective.” But alert that the world of work is “archaic” and far from applying it. Faced with harassment at the workplace and sexist, he believes that innovative measures should be taken such as “isolating” the worker, but in no case could he be eligible for a promotion. “The bases of public promotions should have clauses that exclude those who have sentences against them for gender discrimination or of any kind,” he adds.

Although the victims and the union delegates of CGT, who have given them support throughout the process, point to the lack of care of Eloi Badia, president of the municipal company and councilor for Climate Emergency, is the councilor for Equality, who has also been on top of the case, who has replied to on behalf of the City Council. It acknowledges that in the case of the sanction against this worker “things were done wrongly” and that “it would be negative” if his promotion was finally confirmed, but they point to the “great advances” that are being carried out through the new measures that include encourage the entry and internal promotion of women.

“Witch hunt” against CGT

Beyond these cases, The Critic in recent researchrevealed the testimony of 16 employees who recounted “systematic” episodes of sexualization, humiliation and abuse of power in the last 20 years. An internal survey of 2019, within the company’s equality plan, detected that 16% of the workers of the public company, out of 1,000 workers, had suffered discrimination and 25% had witnessed them.

The report, however, did not like all the workers of the company and the victims are in the middle of a “witch hunt”, in the words of Xènia herself, directed towards the only union that supported them, CGT. Municipal sources define it as “a battle between unions.” After its publication, two anonymous writings have already circulated through the company questioning the aforementioned report. In one of them, signatures were requested on a manifesto for equality, which in turn showed its “disapproval” of the tone of the article, considering that it did not value the progress made. In another, also anonymous but forwarded by another union to the entire workforce, the “objective” of “digging in the past” was questioned and CGT was accused of “barking into the wind” and asked if it is not an “accomplice” of the cases for not having previously disclosed them.

CGT sources in Parcs i Jardins see in all this a “corporatism” of the unions that has also served to favor the harasser and in which they believe that the City Council, in the end, has participated. From the consistory, on the other hand, they defend that they have put all their efforts in the case and in improving the behaviors. They also defend the role of PIAD, Information Points and Attention to Women, which has provided psychological support to victims of harassment. They say they are happy with this service and the psychological care, but they remember that no one from the company or the council offered it to them, but it was they who came after months of unsuccessfully seeking an answer from the council. “While the stalker was given a coachWe had to go to a public service to get help ”, laments Xènia.

Silvia Fitó, delegate of the Workers’ Commissions (a union to which the convicted harasser is affiliated), is upset by the way the case has been handled because her union was “excluded from the process”, and believes that many of the complaints that were collected in the article of CriticalThey should have been taken to the works council. Understand, however, that there are people on the staff who are upset. “It seems that Parcs i Jardins is an extraordinarily different case,” he explains. “There are unfortunate cases, but machismo is a scourge that is in all society and in all companies and this is improving,” he adds. He prefers not to position himself in this case because he awaits the judicial resolution of the appeal that the harasser presented against the disciplinary file.

Both Xènia and her partner, who say they suffered several physical sequelae associated with anxiety generated by stress such as loss of consciousness the first or hair loss the second, tried to return to work a few months after the trial, but they perceived a toxic environment towards them that has led them to be on leave again. “There has not been a follow-up either from the mutual or from the company of our state of health,” adds Xènia.

In his case, an episode with a manager who assures that he is close to the bully made him relive the anguish of the bullying. He felt bad again and asked to leave again. The consistory recognizes that “modifications in the brigade” and more measures to repair the victims will be necessary, although they insist that “the intervention has been very intense” in Xènia’s team and her colleagues so that everything improves. But the victims see it just the opposite.