Review leads to restrooms for female firefighters

Female restrooms are being added to some of Cayman’s fire stations as part of efforts to make the Fire Services Department a safer and more welcoming workplace for women.

The measures are being taken as a result of a review following the conviction of a male fire fighter for indecently assaulting a female colleague when both worked at the Cayman Brac fire station. One of the assaults occurred at the unisex bathroom at the Brac station.

Dorian Hunter was jailed for 18 months in February 2009 after a judge found him guilty on four counts of indecently assaulting his colleague, who subsequently quit her job.

According to a response to a Freedom of Information request, the department has added new separate female restrooms and facilities at the Cayman Brac fire station and applied for planning permission to extend the Frank Sound fire station to include separate facilities for women. The department has adopted a policy to assign female officers only to the Central Fire Station at the airport, which has facilities for women.

Details of the steps the department had taken as a result of the review, which is understood to have been completed in December last year, were revealed late last week when the Caymanian Compass received a response to an open records request lodged in July. The request asked for access to the review report and any new procedures put in place as a result of the review.

A letter from the Ministry of Finance, Tourism and Development signed by chief officer Carson Ebanks stated that the ministry was turning down the request for access to the report because it was exempted from disclosure “on the ground of legal privilege, as it was prepared in contemplation of litigation”.

However, the ministry released a list of nine measures Fire Services had implemented following 
the review.

The Information Commissioner’s Office last week criticised the ministry for failing to respond in a timely manner to the Compass’ open records request.

Among the other measures undertaken by the Fire Services Department are: increased frequency of gender awareness workshops; one-on-one mentoring of supervisors and other ranking officers; implementing tracking forms for the recruitment process; guidelines for the recruitment process; and implementing a formal orientation process and checklist.

The Fire Services had started an internal inquiry into the woman’s complaints in Cayman Brac, but that inquiry was suspended once a police investigation began. The internal review was delayed until July 2009 while the department awaited transcripts of the court case.

Following last May’s election, responsibility for the Fire Services Department shifted from the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs, which had commissioned the internal review carried out by a private sector entity, to the Ministry of Finance, Tourism and Development.

It was revealed during the court case that once the woman reported the sexual assaults, she was ostracised at the Brac station. In a victim impact statement read in court, she said: “The other officers at the fire station treated me as an outcast; they isolated me from a lot of interaction with them. The fire officers had no respect for me and they did not hide their feelings.”

When passing sentence on Hunter, Grand Court Justice Charles Quin said other officers also subjected the woman to humiliating and degrading treatment at the station, which was described during the trial as a “very unpleasant place for women to work”.

The department has adopted a policy to assign female officers only to the Central Fire Station at the airport, which has facilities for women.

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