• BBC Presenter Wins Age Discrimination Claim
  • February 2, 2011 | Author: Alex Denny
  • Law Firm: Faegre & Benson LLP - London Office
  • In O'Reilly v BBC (2200423/2010), Miriam O'Reilly, former presenter of the BBC show Countryfile, was successful in her age discrimination claim after she was dismissed when the show was moved to a prime-time slot.  The BBC tried to argue that the reason Ms O'Reilly had not been offered further work was down to concerns over her performance, rather than because of her age or sex. However, the Tribunal saw through this and found that she had been discriminated against because of her age.

    The case shows that employees are increasingly aware of their rights under the age discrimination legislation that was introduced in 2006, now enshrined in the Equality Act 2010, and that they are also prepared to litigate those rights.  The issue has been around for a long time in the UK - similar complaints were made by former presenters, Moira Stewart and Anna Ford - but now employees have the ammunition to do something about it.  In order to have any chance of defending claims, employers will need to be able to evidence that the reason for the employee's treatment had nothing to do with their age (or indeed any of the other characteristics protected under UK discrimination legislation) and have a solid paper trail to back this up.  In the absence of such evidence, a Tribunal is likely to draw an inference of discrimination.

    The case is also a wake up call for Media organisations like the BBC where outward appearance plays such a key role - this is notoriously fertile ground for discrimination claims.