NANAIMO, B.C. — Terry DeCiantis has never been allowed to see the promotional videos shot of her by the B.C. Ministry of Highways but she’s certain she’d know what to do if she ever gets her hands on them.
“I’d like to burn them all,” she told local media.
In a case before the B.C. Human Rights Commission, the 44-year-old Nanaimo woman claims she was forced out of her job as a heavy-equipment operator by an almost daily stream of harassment and innuendo.
She complains her former employer Highway Constructors Ltd. (HCL), which was created by the provincial NDP government and given a strong mandate to recruit women and members of visible minorities, failed to protect her against the obvious pattern of abuse that lead to a near nervous breakdown.
DeCiantis was one of just a handful of female heavy-equipment operators when she was hired by HCL in 1994 under its job equity program. In fact, there are reportedly 15 women as compared to 485 men working for the B.C. operation.
HCL spokeswoman Kathryn Macdonald says the company did what it could and took corrective action when DeCiantis first filed her complaints. She defended HCL’s equity program, which she says has achieved a 20-per-cent hiring ratio for women and visible minorities. She says that compares with an industry average of about four per cent.
DeCiantis, a mother of two, estimates the harassment has also cost her $100,000 in lost wages.
In addition to HCL, the International Union of Operating Engineers has been named as a co-defendant in the formal human rights complaint.