Surrey, UK -- (SBWIRE) -- 03/28/2013 -- A number of former BBC staff have contacted a ground-breaking employment lawyer who has specialised in winning settlements for sexual harassment victims.
Ann Olivarius Yale University graduate, recently described how she has spoken with over 24 women who believe themselves to be victims of sexual harassment or bullying during their time at the broadcasting corporation. Ann Olivarius American-British solicitor, explained that the women approached her after she delivered a speech at an event to discuss women in the arts and media which was attended by 150 people.
Olivarius is Chair of the Executive Committee at her London-based law firm McAllister Olivarius and also acts as a trustee to poverty-alleviating charity GenerationNext! It is her past experiences of winning sexual harassment settlements for her clients that has movitvated the women to contact her.
These revelations are the latest in what has become a spate of negative publicity surrounding the publicly-owned corporation. Miriam O'Reilly, former presenter of Countryfile, was amongst the first who claimed the BBC had asked her to sign a gagging clause after she was successful at an age discrimination tribunal. O'Reilly refused and has since called for a change in the “nasty subversive underbelly” at the corporation. Other well-known women who have stepped forward with accounts of sexual harassment include Liz Kershaw and Sandi Toksvig.
A ‘gagging order’ is typically a clause in a compromise agreement – used to settle disputes between employers and departing employees -- which states that the parties to the agreement must keep particular terms of the case and the agreement confidential. In return for a settlement, employees are often asked to agree to this kind of silence to prevent them from becoming whistle-blowers or letting other employees know how much the company was willing to pay to get the employee to leave. However, gagging clauses have recently been criticised for working to undermine inquiries that have been launched in reaction to the Jimmy Savile scandal. Furthermore, the BBC recently announced its commitment to uncovering the full extent of sexual harassment and discrimination at the corporation with the introduction of its ‘Respect at Work Review’. However, this has led to further criticism of the corporation by women coming forward in response to the investigation, who claim that the BBC is simply paying lip service to its critics. Some of them are concerned that they cannot speak openly during the review as they are bound by past gagging orders relating to harassment and bullying.
Of the 850 women who got in touch with those running the inquiry, 20 claim that a compromise agreement stops them from revealing information about their time at the BBC. In order to allow the women to speak freely, trade unions have provided their support to those concerned. Responding to these revelations, the BBC claims that there are no restrictions on women looking to pass on their experiences of working in the corporation to the review. The enquiry is being overseen by Dinah Rose QC and was launched in October 2012.
Name: Joshua Owens
Company Location: London, UK