Newfoundland woman bound, gagged at work in Scottish whistleblower scandal

DeeAnn Fitzpatrick, who is originally from Bell Island, N.L., says she was subjected to a decade of workplace abuse while working in Scotland.

DeeAnn Fitzpatrick, who now lives in Scotland, alleges she was bound, gagged by co-workers

DeeAnn Fitzpatrick, a fisheries officer, says she was subjected to a decade of workplace abuse, including being bound and gagged in an office chair. This photo was taken eight years ago by a man accused of the abuse. (Provided by BBC Scotland)

The family of a woman from Bell Island, N.L., is speaking out about alleged workplace abuse of their sister — which included being bound and gagged in an office chair, as reported Wednesday by BBC News.

DeeAnn Fitzpatrick said the incident occurred in 2010, but it was part of a decade-long pattern of bullying and abuse that she experienced when she worked as a fisheries officer at Marine Scotland's Scrabster office on Scotland's northern coast.

"Today I think she feels a bit of relief, like all of her family does," Sherry Fitzpatrick said about her sister-in-law's state of mind now that the harassment allegations are public.

"This has gone on so long, and I've made it my mission that this is going to end very soon for her."

'Boys just being boys'

BBC Scotland reporter Mark Daly anonymously received the gagging photo a few weeks ago. 

"DeeAnn Fitzpatrick was restrained to an office chair with tape, and gagged, and allegedly told, 'This is what happens when you speak out against the boys,'" Daly said.

"She says that she tried to raise the alarm with her manager, but her manager simply said, 'That was the boys just being boys.'"

"Over a period of more than a decade DeeAnn Fitzpatrick has complained about innumerable, almost, episodes of behaviour," Daly told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show Thursday.

"She was subjected to, she says, extreme racist language and also threatening behaviour toward female staff, some of whom were referred to as prostitutes."

DeeAnn also told Daly that she was mocked about having had a miscarriage, and told that the organization didn't want a woman — especially a foreign woman — working there.

Review ordered by Scottish First Minister

The organization hasn't responded directly to the allegations, Daly said, and the Scottish government had said it couldn't comment directly on internal staffing matters but that there are clear behaviour standards that apply to all staff.

On Thursday during first minister's questions in Scottish parliament, MSP Rhoda Grant brought up the allegations and asked for the removal of a clause that prevents DeeAnn Fitzpatrick from speaking to media.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was "horrified" by the picture and that she has asked the permanent secretary to conduct a full review of the case.

It's just unacceptable.- Sherry Fitzpatrick, sister-in-law

DeeAnn Fitzpatrick has been away from work since her father passed away in 2016. The BBC reported that she was threatened with disciplinary action when she'd travelled to see him before he died. 

Sherry Fitzpatrick said that her sister-in-law is at home in Scotland, and has been receiving public support now that the allegations of her experiences at work are public.

"She's been inundated with emails of well wishes, people that she don't even know that are 100 per cent behind her. People that really, really can't believe that this has actually happened to somebody in this day and age," Sherry Fitzpatrick said.

"It's just unacceptable."

With files from the St. John's Morning Show