An independently appointed commission will be created to field complaints made by Caymanian job-seekers who feel they have been unfairly discriminated against during the hiring process, Premier Alden McLaughlin said last week.
Mr. McLaughlin said he believed the Fair Employment Opportunities Commission would help alleviate public concerns about the perception that qualified Caymanian job-seekers are being left out of opportunities for career advancement.
An emphatic point was placed on the issue a few weeks ago when a hiring dispute within the government Ministry of Education appeared to be headed for the Grand Court after a non-Caymanian human resources manager was hired over two Caymanians who scored higher during a job interview.
The premier noted Thursday that “complaints and resentment” over alleged discriminatory hiring practices are growing in Cayman at present and that it was likely no amount of “tinkering” with the Immigration Law would be able to resolve the issue.
“If we do nothing and allow the current beliefs of unfairness to fester and grow, we may well end up where the Bahamas was in the 1970s, with an unsettled business climate, great resentment amongst local people and businesses leaving our shores,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
Mr. McLaughlin said the problem must be handled delicately, as both businesses and employees need to believe that such an employment commission is not being politically directed. He suggested that the territorial governor – who is appointed by the U.K. – would therefore be made responsible for appointing a commissioner to lead the new office.
He also noted that many in Cayman’s immigration business, including attorneys and recruiting firms, have noted over the years that there is no recourse under the current law for a Caymanian job applicant who feels he or she has been rejected for a post unfairly.
In contrast, Mr. McLaughlin said local employers and non-Caymanian work permit holders can go to the Immigration Appeals Tribunal if they feel a permit has been wrongly denied. Any worker can also go to the Labour Appeals Tribunal with a complaint against their employer, he said.
“But if you are a Caymanian job-seeker and believe that you were incorrectly treated when applying for a job or bypassed for promotion, you have nowhere to go,” the premier said, adding that writing a complaint letter to the relevant immigration board can result in a non-Caymanian not getting the job, but it rarely leads to a job for a Caymanian applicant.
“There is no current law to protect Caymanians from discrimination by employers and no process by which Caymanians can officially complain or seek redress against instances of discrimination,” he said.
The specifics of how the Fair Employment Opportunities Commission would function are still being drawn up, but Mr. McLaughlin said it’s meant to serve as a “tool” to supplement current hiring measures. It was suggested that administrative fines could be levied against businesses which have unfair hiring practices.
The commission chairperson would likely have to be an experienced lawyer or retired judge, backed by staff with investigative skills, the premier said.
Mr. McLaughlin said the commission would not represent “some form of affirmative action.”
Another benefit to such a government body would be the collection of data on instances of hiring discrimination, Mr. McLaughlin said. Cayman residents often hear of complaints in various hiring processes within both the public and private sector, but no official records are kept of such disputes.
The collection of this type of data could inform the government and the public as to what job sectors are being impacted by hiring discrimination, if any.
The commission could also educate Caymanians as to their employment rights, the premier said.
He pledged to consult widely with the business community before the creation of a fair employment commission with an eye toward making sure businesses can receive the workers they need.
“If a business is operating as the law requires and is treating Caymanian job applicants fairly, then they will have nothing to fear regarding the implementation of such a commission,” Mr. McLaughlin said.