Age Discrimination Case Rocks the BBC, Fueling International Debate about Discrimination in TV and Film

On January 14th, Miriam O’Reilly, a 51-year-old British television host, won an age discrimination case against the British Broadcast Service (BBC) in a widely-publicized London employment case. O’Reilly, who had hosted the BBC show Countryfile about rural happenings in England, was fired by BBC in early 2009.

Did age have anything to do with her firing? You be the judge. According to an AP article, “one colleague offered her hair dye,” another told her “it’s time for Botox,” and a third said “her wrinkles could be a problem in this new era of high-definition TV.” Furthermore, witnesses for O’Reilly “testified about television’s relentless demand for ‘refreshing faces’ and ‘spring chickens.'”
The Employment Tribunal, the British independent judicial organization which determines disputes between employers and employees, ruled that it was legitimate for the BBC to try to appeal to younger viewers but that it was not acceptable to choose “younger presenters” so as to “pander to the assumed prejudices of some younger viewers.”

Although the BBC has since apologized, O’Reilly’s case has stoked passionate interest not just from employment discrimination blogs but also from outlets like the Washington Post and the Guardian, a large British paper.

Age discrimination has become an enormous issue over the past few years and it’s not just because institutions like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have been calling more businesses to task. The Baby Boomer generation (anyone born between 1946 and 1964) has been getting older and this potentially implies a potential tectonic shift in the way aging and elderly workers will be treated in the United States and Western Europe. Given the Boomers’ history of anti-authoritarianism, it’s unlikely that the people in this generation (who constitute an enormous demographic block) will quietly accede to prejudice and discrimination.

If someone or you care about has suffered from age discrimination, sexual harassment, or other mistreatment at your workplace, you may have a significant recourse to demand restitution from your employer, better treatment, and perhaps even punitive damages.

The resources that laws like the Age Discrimination and Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) afford for claimants like you may surprise you in their diversity and force. Get in touch with the law firm of Joseph & Kirschenbaum today at JHLLP or (212) 688-5640 for a comprehensive, free and confidential consultation about your workplace problem.