Woman fired from call centre after discovery of drug conviction

SHERIL Daley is protesting a decision by her former employer, a popular call centre, to fire her months after discovering that she had a criminal conviction.

Daley, 36, spent five years in prison, from 2011 to 2016, for attempting to traffic drugs overseas, as well as for presenting a fake passport to immigration officials.

Human rights advocate Carla Gullotta pointed out that too often, persons who have gained qualifications behind bars get released only to be blocked by prospective employers. She pointed to the practice being more serious when a woman is put in the situation because it sets the tone for her to possibly be abused by men.

Having served her time constructively while behind bars by achieving passes in three Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate subjects as well as attaining a certificate from HEART (Trust), Daley told the Jamaica Observer last week that the entity placed her in an unfortunate position, which could have been avoided had officials there requested the police record prior to her employment.

She explained that when her employer notified her along the way that the background check was required, she at no point objected because she was confident that she had been rehabilitated and was doing well in turning a new page in her life.

“Even when we start over, society naa gi we a chance…even we own weh live amongst us. I face it every day. People fear me just because mi did go prison. I got English, accounts and principles of business. In HEART, I did beaded jewellery. To get a job was very, very hard. However, I got the job and they laid me off three months after because the company lost the account. They called me back in 2020 and rehired me.

“Everything was fine and I was working and I was doing nothing wrong. One day they called me and said they are going to pay for a police record. I didn’t have anything to hide. If I did I wouldn’t give them the okay to do the police record. A day after I did the police record they called me and said they would send me home on paid leave until they do some more background checks.

“I said alright and explained to the human resources manager that I actually did the crime, served the time and made myself a better person from the situation when I was much younger. I tried to explain to her that mistakes do happen, but don’t try punish someone for something they did years ago. I served the time. A few weeks after she called me and said the contract ended because the policy is not for anybody who was incarcerated. If that was the case, they should not have hired me in the first place. They said I must expunge the police record and then reapply,” she said, sharing that the employer suggested she reapply after expunging her record.

Despite her predicament though, Daley isn’t ruined. She shared with the Sunday Observer that she will be registering her beaded jewellery and fashion business and already harbours big plans for expansion.

“A me name money. Mi nuh siddung and wait fi somebody fi give me a job fi get something fi do. Me will get up and look something fi do. If mi get a likkle change, mi will buy likkle things and sell. Now that there is corona, mi plan fi start mi own business. I am going to register the business name. Mi ago try put it online and get mi daughter and few likkle young girls to model my things. I design pants, slippers and all kind a things,” Daley explained.

According to Gullotta, being shunned after rehabilitation forces women to jump into relationships with men because they become desperate in their penniless state. She said people who break the law must be punished, however these individuals should not have their past wrongs dangled over their heads for life.

“If your break the law you should get punished, but you cannot punish someone lifelong. This is happening every minute where women who were into the institution aren’t able to stay in a job because they are required to produce a police report. We hear a story like this one very often, where people who are fully rehabilitated, receive five subjects, go to HEART training and are well skilled, as soon as they apply for the job and the company learns that they come from a prison it becomes a no-no – even if they are highly qualified. There are some jobs they cannot do, like the police [work, which I understand].

“However, I want you to consider it as a contributor to violence and discrimination against women. These women left their children outside and they decided that they would use their time to achieve a better education and professional skill so they can help themselves when they go home. When a woman is depending on a man it is not a free relationship. It might even be an abusive [one] but you have to stay in that relationship because you can’t stand on your own. On the other hand, for the children it’s big trauma.”

Katrian Clarke, administrator at local human rights group Stand Up For Jamaica, shared that coming out of several workshops with human rights facilitators and attorneys, to fire someone just because of a criminal record is illegal, and persons who experienced this may have a case in a civil court.

“Based on several workshops that we have had with several human rights facilitators and attorneys, we were advised that it is illegal to fire someone just on the basis that they have a criminal record. As a matter of fact, sometimes when you go to make applications at certain businesses, you have to fill out an application form and some of these businesses will put on the applications form, the question of whether or not you have a criminal record or have been incarcerated before. The lawyers advised us that even if it is on that form, we are not obligated to say whether or not we were, and they can’t hold that against us.

“If it is a case where the indication is given that there is a record, that cannot be the basis on which they would fire you. If they do, you can bring a civil case against them in court. Based on the fact that a lot of these businesses are not educated on things like these, a lot of persons in Jamaica don’t know what their human rights are. Firing you based on the fact that you have a criminal record is violation of your human rights,” she insisted.

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