An RCMP officer is now at risk of losing her job entirely for sleeping with her boss — while her boss faces merely a reprimand.
In 2009, Susan Gastaldo was an officer in the “Special O” unit of Canada’s national police force, the RCMP, in British Columbia. Late that year, her husband found suggestive messages on her BlackBerry from Staff Sgt Travis Pearson, Gastaldo’s boss. She quickly revealed that she’d been having an affair with him for months.
The sexual relationship is not in question. What was in question was how the relationship came about in the first place. Gastaldo claimed that she was coerced and threatened by Pearson to enter into and carry out the affair. He said it was fully consensual. And the RCMP adjudicators who were trying both her and Pearson on charges of disgraceful conduct decided they agreed with him. They found Gastaldo guilty of disgraceful Conduct for having sex with Pearson on the job. Pearson had already pleaded guilty to the same charges and gave a tearful apology to the force and to his family (but was never called to testify).
Now, she may lose her job in the aftermath, while he would be merely reprimanded despite being the superior officer and in a position of power over Gastaldo. Gastaldo faces firing because the RCMP says that she “slandered” Pearson when she said he pressured and threatened her to enter into and maintain their extramarital affair.
The RCMP says her claim of coercion is not believable because there is evidence in the form of emails and text messages between the two that show her as a willing participant. Gastaldo, however, said she said whatever she had to to “make him happy” because he had harassed her and verbally threatened her and her family. In addition, a second female RCMP officer came forward to testify for Gastaldo, saying that she, too, had been subjected to eerily similar advances from Pearson previously.
A high profile female RCMP officer is also taking Gastaldo’s side. Given the multiple recent revelations about sexual harassment in the force, RCMP Cpl Catherine Galliford is saying that if Gastaldo’s superior was hellbent on having an affair with her, there wasn’t much she could do about it since “men within the RCMP are given free reign to do whatever they want.”
In the current RCMP atmosphere, it’s questionable whether any woman in Gastaldo’s situation could possibly get a fair trial. But it’s obvious that all a man in the RCMP has to do is cry and swear fidelity to his family, and he can keep rolling merrily along as always before.
Photo Credit: MPD01605 on Flickr.