A civil servant alleged to have been gagged and tied to a chair by male colleagues after she spoke out against misogyny at work has been sacked.
Marine Scotland took the decision to dismiss DeeAnn Fitzpatrick, 50, despite the fact that she was unable to attend a disciplinary hearing on the advice of her doctor.
The fisheries officer had accused her bosses of turning a blind eye to sexist and bullying treatment she says she suffered at the hands of male co-workers.
A photograph of her with tape across her mouth and tied to a chair at work caused an outcry in 2018.
But an internal investigation by Marine Scotland found the men had ‘no case to answer’ and dismissed the incident as part of a ‘high jinks’ culture, in which it claimed Miss Fitzpatrick willingly took part.
Staff claimed during the inquiry that one prank would involve wrapping staff members in sticky tape if they fell asleep during night or late shifts.
Despite Miss Fitzpatrick’s denials that she had been a willing participant, she found herself under investigation for alleged gross misconduct.
Three days ago, despite travel restrictions in place because of Covid-19, two Government employees journeyed by car on a 16-hour return trip from Edinburgh to her home in Caithness to deliver her dismissal letter.
Last night, Miss Fitzpatrick’s outraged family said that she had been warned repeatedly by Marine Scotland not to talk publicly about the case, so they had decided to speak up on her behalf.
Her sister, Sherry Fitzpatrick, told The Mail on Sunday: “She has been left absolutely devastated and feeling betrayed to be treated like this.
“How can this be justice? It’s a disgrace. To this day, she can hardly bear to look at the photograph of her taped to the chair and gagged. It reminds her of a day she felt she became a nothing. In this #MeToo age we now live in, I find this decision to dismiss her incredible.
“It suits Marine Scotland to say DeeAnn made it all up. She has been broken by this. My sister used to be strong, brave and outgoing. Now she is a recluse who is afraid of her own shadow.’
Miss Fitzpatrick, who is from Canada, claimed she was targeted after telling management about the alleged mistreatment of another woman in her office in Scrabster, Caithness, by a co-worker.
It led, in 2010, to two colleagues allegedly grabbing her, taping her legs and arms, and then one telling the other: “That shuts her up.” Tape was then placed over her mouth, she claimed, and the man added: “That’s what you get for speaking out against the boys.”
She lost an employment tribunal in June 2018, but it did not consider the chair incident as it was “time-barred”.
Instead the tribunal focused on her claim that she had received abusive cards on her birthday and on Valentine’s Day between 2015 and 2017.
A message in one called her an “old troll” and another warned her about trying to “climb the ladder of success”.
The tribunal ruled it could not agree whether the cards had come from current colleagues.
Then, last November, in what her family claimed was a dirty tricks campaign, details were suddenly made public that Marine Scotland was pursuing a gross misconduct case against Miss Fitzpatrick for allegedly making ‘false representations’. She denied the allegations against her, which included that she tampered with the date on the ‘Chairgate’ image – despite the fact she is not the owner of the photo and had no way of accessing its electronic data.
A Scottish Government spokesman said yesterday: “We do not discuss decisions relating to individual members of staff.”