New Report: Remediation of Sexual Harassment and Retaliation at Mazava Hispaniola (Haiti)

To:WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges
From:Tara Mathur and Ben Hensler
Date:November 16, 2023
Re:New Report: Remediation of Sexual Harassment and Retaliation at Mazava Hispaniola (Haiti)

Please find here a new report detailing the investigation and remediation by the WRC of sexual harassment of women workers—as well as the retaliatory firing of these workers for resisting this abuse—by a factory manager at Mazava Hispaniola, a garment manufacturer located in Ouanaminthe, Haiti that closed in September 2023. From July 2020 to July 2023, Mazava Hispaniola had been disclosed by the university licensee, Gorilla Marketing, as a supplier of collegiate apparel, although, as discussed in our report, Gorilla Marketing later informed the WRC that this disclosure had been inaccurate and that the factory had not actually made its collegiate-licensed products.

Despite extensive engagement by the WRC, both Mazava Hispaniola’s owners, the Hong Kong-based Winds Group, and the factory’s primary buyer, SanMar Corporation (which is a vendor to Gorilla Marketing), refused to correct the sexual harassment and retaliation against these workers. In particular, SanMar chose to accept the factory’s denial that its manager had engaged in sexual harassment even though multiple workers had credibly testified, separately, that such harassment had occurred.

Equally troubling, SanMar claimed its refusal to take corrective action was justified based on a supposed “investigation” by SanMar’s own auditor, who did not even attempt to speak with the workers who reported the harassment. SanMar’s conduct in this case raises serious doubts as to the company’s willingness and competency to address issues of gender-based violence and harassment in its supply chain.

As a result of SanMar’s refusal to properly address the WRC’s findings and recommendations concerning the sexual harassment and retaliation against the women workers, these violations were not remediated before the factory’s closure. However, after the factory closed, the WRC, with the constructive assistance of Gorilla Marketing as a university licensee, was able to secure corrective actions to substantially assist the affected employees and remedy these violations.

The factory manager’s sexual harassment of the women workers included:

  1. Sexually propositioning them, during the workday, inside the factory;
  2. Making obscene and degrading sexual comments at work to one of these women;
  3. Threatening both workers with retaliation for rejecting his sexual propositions and objecting to his obscene and degrading sexual comments; and
  4. Having both women workers terminated in retaliation for resisting his sexual harassment and propositions.

Earlier this month, Gorilla Marketing, at the recommendation of the WRC, provided humanitarian contributions to the two directly affected employees, which make these workers whole for their back wages from the date of their termination to the factory’s date of closure (more than one year’s back pay), along with the statutory severance they would have received when the factory closed had they not been retaliatorily dismissed the year before. The WRC assisted Gorilla Marketing in the transfer of these funds to the women workers in Haiti.

Gorilla Marketing informed the WRC that, despite its collegiate supplier disclosure data that indicated to the contrary, it had deactivated Mazava Hispaniola as an approved supplier in 2021, and that, while before then it had been supplied by SanMar with garments from Mazava Hispaniola, this apparel was never used for Gorilla Marketing’s collegiate products. Nonetheless, Gorilla Marketing took positive action to address the labor violations identified by the WRC and make whole the affected women workers.

While SanMar refused to require its supplier, Mazava Hispaniola, to provide compensation and rehiring to the two women who were harassed and retaliated against, it did prevail on the factory to conduct, with the cooperation of the ILO Better Work Haiti factory monitoring program, training for its supervisors and managers on preventing sexual harassment, before the factory closed. Also, prior to the plant’s shutdown, the factory manager, who had been identified as the perpetrator of the abuse and retaliation against the women workers, was separated from employment by the factory, although this was supposedly done for unrelated reasons.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.