DHSS employee files complaint with USDOL against Taeaoafua
Department Human Social Services employee Simeonica Tuiteleleapaga, a transgender, has confirmed that she has filed an official complaint with the US Department of Labor against the Acting Director of the DHSS, Taeaoafua Meki Solomona on allegations that he humiliated her during a meeting at the DHSS offices that was highly publicized on social media last year, in November.
Samoa News obtained a copy of the 47-minute recording of the meeting — that was posted on social media right after the alleged incident. The alleged meeting was attended by most of the DHSS staff, and happened in the last week of November, a couple of weeks after the 2016 General Election.
In the recording, Taeaoafua is heard telling Simeonica to take off her clothes to see if “she is a boy or a girl,” during the alleged meeting that seems to be a harangue of DHSS government employees, who he says voted against him (by apparently voting against the administration in November’s General Election).
He is also heard saying he was ready to replace 42 employees who were for the “other” team.
At the time the alleged incident occurred, Taeaofua was Director of DHSS. He submitted his resignation in December, as all directors have done; and two weeks ago, Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga reappointed Taeaoafua to continue as DHSS director. He is subject to Fono confirmation in the near future.
In the recording, Taeaoafua is also heard calling out to Simeonica by name, saying, “You work for me and the things you do to me, you think it’s not right?”
The recording did not clearly capture what Simeonica’s response was, but then DHSS Director is heard saying, “You're not related to them, I know your status, you bring your papers to me, you have papers, don't cry.”
Staff members of DHSS told Samoa News later that Simeonica was explaining that she is related to Faoa Aitofele Sunia’s wife. The gubernatorial team of Faoa & Sanitoa ran during last year’s general election, but was defeated by the Lolo & Lemanu gubernatorial team.
Taeaoafua, in the recording, then tells Simeonica to sit down, “You keep shooting your mouth, that is exactly why I don't want these kinds of people here.”
He is heard also calling out to another employee by the name of “Agnes” asking if she was there and then he goes on to say “I don’t want her here.” It’s unclear if the director was referring to Agnes or Simeonica.
Taeaoafua is also heard saying what was done to him was personal, but it’s unclear if he was referring to the employees in general he believes voted against the current administration, or to Simeonica specifically.
He is also heard in the recording alleging that Simeonica wanted to remove him from his directorship level and that “I'm going to remove you.... I got the upper hand, you think about the law, I'm a lawyer too, you think about HR (Human Resources) policies, I know HR policies if you think about seniority, I know seniority.”
Simeonica is later in the recording asked to leave by Taeaoafua.
Responding to Samoa News questions, Simeonica through her Facebook page, not long after the alleged incident, said, “I will take a stand and legal actions will be taken.”
She told Samoa News that she felt “humiliated, embarrassed, being bullied a feeling of living in a communist world... No rights. No freedom.”
Efforts to get comments from the Acting DHSS Director have been unsuccessful since November when the recording was first posted on social media.