TV presenter was sexually harassed but not unfairly dismissed

A TV who alleged she was called offensive, sexual names on her earpiece as a "distraction joke" by her camera crew as she conducted a live TV show, responded with a finger gesture – and was later sacked.

Charlotte Vernon, known on the Jewellery Maker television show as Charlie, lost her job after a viewer made an official complaint about her gesture.

The viewer said she and her 12-year-old daughter had been watching the programme during prime viewing time and regarded Miss Vernon’s gesture as disgusting.

Miss Vernon said she had not realised her response had been seen by viewers who were unaware of what she had allegedly been called on her earpiece.

Miss Vernon initially laughed at the crews antics as she presented the programme, but said she later became shocked and extremely offended over the alleged insulting and obscene remarks.

Miss Vernon was seeking compensation at Birmingham Employment Tribunal for sexual harassment, victimisation and unfair dismissal against her former employers, The Genuine Gemstone Company of Eagle Road TV Studios, Eagle Road, Redditch, which accused her of bringing the firm into disrepute.

Miss Vernon who had worked for the firm for more than two years was presenting the Jewellery Maker programme on a minor Sky television channel when the alleged incidents occurred.

The programme was dealing with antique bronze and copper items at the time and tribunal judge Victoria Dean was shown a 10 minute extract showing Miss Vernon laughing nervously as she handled the jewellery only to become angry and responsive.

Miss Vernon told the tribunal: "I was shocked and extremely offended to be called (the offensive names) on my earpiece. There’s always the odd distraction joke among the camera crews during transmission, but it’s usually innocent and friendly. I’ve never been insulted before by such crude language.

"This was taken to a different level and I did my best to carry on with the show despite what was going on.”

Paul Roberts, representing the respondents, said Miss Vernon’s gesture could have brought the firm’s reputation into disrepute.

He said the firm denied Miss Vernon’s allegations and said she worked as a freelance and was not an employee.

Mr Roberts also said Miss Vernon had been threatened with losing her job two weeks before the presentation incident.

Miss Vernon said she had been an employee and had previously been sent to India by the firm to handle gems as part of her training.

Miss Dean said the tribunal agreed Miss Vernon had been an employee and that she had been sexually harassed.

She said Miss Vernon had been called the names, which had been regarded as unprofessional.

Miss Dean awarded Miss Vernon £3,250 but rejected her claim for unfair dismissal after declaring that the respondents had acted within the range of reasonable responses by dismissing her for misconduct.

The legal claim for victimisation was also rejected by Miss Dean who described the situation as a one off incident.

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