MEA burden of proof on
- harassment laws were long overdue Malta Association
of Women in Business
By Matthew Vella
Malta Employers Association Secretary-General Joe Farrugia has reiterated
employers concerns on the burden of proof in sex discrimination
cases as the sexual harassment saga between female MPs and the business
Speaking to The Malta Financial and Business Times, Joe Farrugia said
that the control of sexual harassment through the law was positive since
it provided for both men and women, creating an equal platform for both
"However, where the onus of proof comes in, it is unfair that the
employer has to actually disprove the case made by the complainant.
Not only is this difficult to disprove, but certain allegations could
be unfounded. Even if a case is decided in favour of the employer, their
name is already darkened by the case. Only recently we had the case
of Badawi, who was innocent of a crime he was accused of, although his
name was made public."
GRTU Director-General Vince Farrugia has been at the forefront of the
controversy claiming that the guilty until proven innocent
assumption is "wholly wrong and contrary to the normal Maltese
legal assumption of being innocent until proven guilty".
Farrugia has courted slight outrage by saying that men and women could
not avoid brushing together in spaces where offices are small. He wants
regulations to be changed so that the onus of proof is on whoever is
making the accusations or that small businesses employing not more than
10 persons are exempted from the regulations.
Mr Joe Farrugia said the MEA did not go all out in public on the issue
because it did not believe in sensationalising the matter. Asked whether
the business community was defending employers turning a blind eye away
from actual harassment cases, Mr Farrugia said that many workplaces
develop their own relationship-culture:
"You have both workplaces which are lax on the way people behave
around each other, which means a higher propensity for sexual harassment
to occur; and other workplaces which are intolerant of over-familiarity
between workers. Employers are concerned their names could have a dark
shadow cast upon them, and subsequently find it hard to disprove cases
which may not be genuine. However, the MEA believes that the laws concerning
sexual harassment are positive ones.
The Malta Financial and Business Times also spoke to Roseanne Galea,
Director of Galea Insurance Brokers and President of the Association
for Women in Business. She has expressed support for MPs Dolores Cristina
and Helena Dalli who have hit against Vince Farrugia and Chamber of
Commerce President Reginald Fava.
"Although the burden of proof places the onus on the employer,
I still think these laws should have been long overdue. I think employers
who dont have cases of sexual harassment on their workplace have
nothing to worry about. It is those who have recurrent cases that should
"Vince Farrugias comments about space determining
how close employees will be brushing against each other really do not
hold water. Sexual harassment is when both males and females have bad
intentions. There have been too many cases already. It is high time
these laws are enforced. As employer and President of AWB, I am on Dolores
Cristinas and Helena Dallis side."
Reacting to Reginald Favas comments on women dressing up provocatively
at work, Galea said employers should take measures beforehand to stop
harassment from taking place: "Employers should not tolerate indecent
clothing. They should also thoroughly check their references and past
histories to ensure they know who they are employing."