Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. woman bound, gagged in Scottish office feels 'betrayed' she lost harassment claim

A Newfoundland woman who was photographed tied to a chair and gagged in her workplace in Scotland is disappointed that an employment tribunal has ruled against her harassment claim.

'I was in a very dark place,' says DeeAnn Fitzpatrick about the decade of workplace abuse

DeeAnn Fitzpatrick, a Scottish 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)

A Newfoundland woman who was photographed tied to a chair and gagged in her workplace in Scotland is disappointed, but not surprised, that an employment tribunal has ruled against her harassment claim.

DeeAnn Fitzpatrick said she experienced a decade of harassment while working at the Marine Scotland's Scrabster fishery office, on the north coast of Scotland. The incidents left her feeling desperate and depressed.

But the tribunal would consider only more recent incidents of harassment and did not take into consideration the photo, taken in 2010.

"I feel very let down. I feel extremely let down," Fitzpatrick, originally from Bell Island, N.L., said Thursday.

"We weren't surprised … I feel very much let down, I feel betrayed."

DeeAnn Fitzpatrick, left, pictured here with her sister-in-law Sherry Fitzpatrick, says her career as a Scottish fishery officer is more or less in tatters, and she's not surprised by an employment tribunal decision ruling against her harassment complaint. (Submitted by DeeAnn Fitzpatrick)

The complaint went to a tribunal process in the U.K. and, as reported by the BBC Scotland on Wednesday, the tribunal ruled against Fitzpatrick's complaints of a racist and misogynistic workplace culture.

Fitzpatrick's story made international news after she shared the photo of her from 2010, tied to a chair and gagged, with BBC Scotland.

"But since that photo went viral, I've had questions asked of me, is that a joke? Did you participate in it? We heard that was a joke and you laughed at it and that," Fitzpatrick told CBC's On The Go.

"And I'm like, are you for real? Did you see that picture? Do I look like I'm laughing?"

I was one person against an organization.- DeeAnn Fitzpatrick

A judge ruled that photo was not going to be allowed as evidence in the employment tribunal, saying it was too old. The only evidence used was unsigned greeting cards Fitzpatrick said she received at her home from coworkers.

Fitzpatrick characterized the cards as threatening, calling her "an old troll" and referring to her as having male genitalia, the tribunal heard.

"The part that was disturbing about the cards was the fact now they were being sent to my home," she said.

"They were coming into my haven, which upset me because it really made a statement to me that no matter where you go, no matter what you do, we can still get to you."

For Fitzpatrick, the photo and the cards were part of what she said were "hundreds" of other incidents that haven't been investigated, but which she documented over the decade she's worked as a Scottish fishery officer.

DeeAnn Fitzpatrick speaks with BBC Scotland in June 2018 about alleged harassment and bullying at Marine Scotland. (BBC Scotland )

"You go to work stressed, you come home stressed, because you know something's going to be done to discredit you or try to destroy you," Fitzpatrick said.

"And I love the job itself. It's a job I greatly respect, and then to join up, I didn't know I was joining up to become a victim of abuse, to become this person, this foreign woman who racist comments could be made to. I was literally spit on by some of my colleagues."

'My career is pretty much in tatters'

She reported the incidents to human resources, she said, which didn't investigate, as well as her union representative, whom Fitzpatrick said stood by her every every step of the way.

But otherwise, she said no investigations were done until the photo was made public.

"I was one person against an organization," she said.

Fitzpatrick said she's still employed as a fishery officer, but has been barred by the department from returning to working at a job she loves.

DeeAnn Fitzpatrick was employed as a fisheries officer with Marine Scotland at the time of the incident. (BBC Scotland)

"I would say at the moment my career is pretty much in tatters," she said.

"I'm doing everything I can to save my professional career because of what has been done to me, I'm not the person that they would like the world to believe that I am. I'm a hard-working, honest person, I've done my job well."

The past few years have been dark, Fitzpatrick said, and going public has come with challenges.

Her sister-in-law Sherry Fitzpatrick told CBC she was heartbroken when she learned through the tribunal that Fitzpatrick had contacted Dignitas, a Swiss non-profit that provides assisted suicide to terminally ill people, and people with severe mental or physical illness.

"We're very, very worried for her, and she's there on her own, and we just want to see it to the end," Sherry Fitzpatrick told CBC's St. John's Morning Show. "We want her to come home."

DeeAnn Fitzpatrick admits she was struggling with depression.

"I'm going to be honest with you, when I went to the preliminary hearing for the employment tribunal in Aberdeen, Scotland, I was a broken woman," she said.

"I was in a very dark place. It was horrible, it was horrendous. I didn't want to get up in the day, and a lot of times I didn't."

This didn't just happen to me, this happened to other people.- DeeAnn Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick's sister-in-law came to visit her and attend the tribunal hearings with her. And when the story started making news, Fitzpatrick started getting messages from people back home and all over the world offering their support and sharing their stories.

That, she said, made all the difference.

"They were talking of their own incidents of what happened to them and how I was inspiring them by speaking out and asking me don't give up, keep strong, keep fighting, be heard. And it was then I started to say to myself, this didn't just happen to me, this happened to other people," she said.

"Slowly I started to rebuild myself … and yeah, there's days that I feel I want to give up, but these people will keep reminding me, don't you dare."

Waiting for minister's report findings

Now, Fitzpatrick will await the findings of an investigation launched by the first minister's office, which she spoke to just last week.

The findings of that months-long report are expected to be released the end of August, and Fitzpatrick hopes to someday return to her job, and a workplace that's changed for the better.

But in the meantime, she's grateful for her family and the strangers who have contacted her.

"I just want to thank the people of Newfoundland for the love and support that they've been giving me. When these strangers come to me on Facebook from Newfoundland, and from around the world … it made me feel proud of who I am," she said.

"Somewhere along the line I forgot who I was, and it was through this that I remembered."

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from On The Go and the St. John's Morning Show