TV presenter sacked for hand gesture: wins compensation


judges law gavel on a pile of...

Charlie Vernon, a TV presenter on the Jewellery Maker show on the Gems TV channel, was sacked after a viewer complained that she seemed to be gesturing with her middle finger during the programme.

On the face of it, this seems pretty shocking, but at a tribunal it emerged that she was dealing with unacceptable comments through her earpiece at the time, and she was awarded compensation.

Vernon, a 28-year-old who is currently presenting a segment of Channel 5's Live With Gabby, was awarded £3,250 at a tribunal as a result of sexual harassment. The Guardian reported that the judge sat through 10 minutes of the Gems TV programme, which showed Vernon laughing nervously, then getting increasingly angry, and finally making the hand gesture.

According to the Telegraph, Vernon said that she had been abused verbally by colleagues in the studio through her earpiece, who among other things called her a "F***ing big whore" and a "bitch". She said she had not realised the gesture could be seen by viewers.

She was awarded the compensation for harassment, but a claim for unfair dismissal was rejected, because the judge felt that the sacking was a reasonable response to the gesture. A claim for victimisation was also rejected as the judge said it was a one-off incident.

Not alone

It's a strange case, but when it comes to behaviour at work, there are plenty of strange examples to have come to light.

Sometimes sexual politics play their part. In September last year there was the call centre worker awarded damages after her boss made a number of inappropriate sexual advances, and when she turned him down she was sacked.

In June there was the executive who had been having an affair with his PA for three years, and sacked her when his wife found out. She won her case for unfair dismissal

But sometimes it's something altogether more unusual. There was an outcry last November after a freelance gravedigger discovered that a firm of undertakers had decided not to use him. Apparently they had objected when a photograph of him digging a grave on a hot day, with his shirt off and a smile on his face, appeared in the local paper.

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