This article is by Farah Ahmed
A former employee at the state-owned Housing Development Corporation (HDC) has said she was subjected to sexual harassment by a senior staff who once allegedly told her she had been hired for her looks.
The employee, who had started work at the HDC’s legal department in March, said the company’s human resource manager Mirshan Ahmed had sent her inappropriate text messages and regularly commented on her clothes and her hair.
The harassment began the first week she started work.
“He once messaged me saying I should thank him for this job. He said he saw my picture on my application form and hired me because I looked so pretty.”
When she did not respond to his text messages, he allegedly threatened to muddy her work record.
“One of his messages said: “from now on I’ll only be there for you’. And when I didn’t respond, he sent a message saying ‘I’ll be bad to you only. I’ll put this on your profile’,” she told Minivan News.
“Maybe because I am a single mother, he once told me that I am a ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ deal.”
HDC deputy managing director Mohamed Shahid said the issue is under investigation and declined to comment further.
Newspapers Haveeru and Vaguthu have meanwhile said the Economic and Youth Council at the president’s office has tabled the issue and discussed penalties.
Mirshan was not available for comment at the time of going to press.
When the female employee, who wished to remain anonymous, first complained to her colleagues about the harassment, she was advised to stay silent and warned she may lose her job.
However, other female employees soon began sharing their own experiences of harassment by Mirshan.
Some told her several had been fired before for raising the issue.
“Once, at a meeting with office staff, he told a woman who was about to sit, that she couldn’t fit in to the couch with her friend because her butt was too big – so it wasn’t just me who was being harassed. This has clearly been an on-going thing.”
She lodged a complaint with the senior management and an internal committee was set up to review her claim. But when her three-month probation expired on June 4, she was dismissed.
“I was told to go home. There were no formal letters at first. They told me my probation period was over and that I was just a replacement for someone who had to be moved to a different department – they didn’t tell me this when they employed me. Despite the harassment, I liked my job – I even told them I’d work for free.”
The committee has since decided to reinstate her job. But the HDC managing director Mohamed Simon has ignored the order, she alleged.
“When I finally got my termination letter, it said that they did not have the budget to keep an extra employee in my department and that’s why they were letting me go. I felt that I was being dismissed for personal reasons just because I actually spoke out about this,” she said.
She then sent an email from her work email account to all HDC employees with copes of her termination letter and chat-logs demonstrating Mirshan’s inappropriate comments.
HDC fired the assistant director of marketing and suspended an IT officer for “a security breach.”
Minivan News was not able to contact Simon at the time of going to press.
The parliament in May passed a law against sexual harassment, which mandates government offices to investigate complaints of workplace harassment within 60 days.
The review committee can warn, suspend or dismiss the perpetrator.
This article previously said an HDC assistant director of marketing was suspended for an alleged security breach. This is incorrect, he was dismissed.