A worker at Sky TV who blew the whistle on a colleague for making ‘sexually degrading remarks’ and ‘thrusting motions’ towards female guests and presenters including Helen Mirren and Kay Burley has won his case for unfair dismissal.
Sean Duffy reported Sky News floor manager Jimmy Lacey to bosses after claiming to witness the behaviour towards the Oscar-winning actor and veteran journalist while at the broadcaster.
He alleged at an employment tribunal his disclosure – which also included accusations Mr Lacey had intimidated and criticised him – contributed to him later losing his job in another part of the television giant’s empire.
A panel concluded that while Mr Duffy’s whistleblowing ultimately played no part in him leaving Sky, he had made the claims in the public interest to draw attention to potential sexual harassment of the women.
But it did find the broadcaster guilty of unfairly dismissing him three years later after another manager was accused of pursuing a ‘vendetta’ against him.
Sean Duffy (left) reported Sky News floor manager Jimmy Lacey (right) to bosses after claiming to witness the behaviour towards the Oscar-winning actor and veteran journalist while at the broadcaster
Mr Duffy, who has gone on to work on Netflix’s The Crown, is now in line for compensation following last month’s ruling.
The tribunal in south London heard that Mr Duffy was working as a booking coordinator at Sky when he spent almost six weeks shadowing Mr Lacey in the autumn of 2015.
Following this he launched a formal grievance alleging that Mr Lacey – a floor manager whose job is to be in charge of the studio where the news programmes are filmed – had subjected him to ‘serious intimidation’.
He claimed that throughout his training period Mr Lacey – who regularly tweets selfies of himself with Sky News guests including actress and MeToo movement campaigner Rose McGowan – referred to him in derogatory terms in emails and said he felt he shouldn’t be employed by Sky.
‘(Mr Duffy) also referred…to witnessing serious sexual harassment including sexually degrading remarks and thrusting motions by Mr Lacey towards female presenters and guests including (Kay) Burley and Dame Helen Mirren,’ the tribunal heard.
‘He found this inappropriate and offensive.’
The tribunal heard that in May 2016 Mr Duffy – who by that time he had got a new job as a floor manager at Sky Sports News (SSN) – received a written apology from Mr Lacey, although his sexual harassment claim was not upheld by the broadcaster.
‘He tried to avoid Mr Lacey when he returned to work at SSN,’ the tribunal heard. ‘He also learned…that Mr Lacey had told his former colleagues at Sky News that he had made untrue malicious and false allegations against him..’
The tribunal found that Sky’s (pictured, its offices in west London) treatment of Mr Duffy ‘was calculated or likely to destroy the relationship of trust and confidence’ between them and ruled that he had been unfairly dismissed
The hearing was told that while at SSN Mr Duffy fell out with another floor manager and later boss, Richard Warwick, and was accused of not being a ‘team player’.
The tribunal heard Mr Warwick – who joined the broadcaster in 2006 – disparaged him to others and in one incident publicly accused him of dishonesty.
Following a restructure at the network Mr Duffy unsuccessfully interviewed for a new role, which led to his resignation in July 2018.
The tribunal found that Sky’s treatment of Mr Duffy ‘was calculated or likely to destroy the relationship of trust and confidence’ between them and ruled that he had been unfairly dismissed.
However, it concluded that the grievance against Mr Lacey had played no part in his treatment, as his managers at SSN were unaware of it.
Nevertheless, Employment Judge Sarah Sage said Mr Duffy had raised his concerns legitimately.
‘This was a matter that dealt with both personal matters in relation to the manner in which [Mr Duffy] was treated by Mr Lacey and in relation to matters of wider public interest, namely Mr Lacey’s conduct towards female presenters and guests on Sky News,’ the tribunal judgement said.
‘We conclude on the facts before us that [Mr Duffy] made a disclosure of information. The information also tended to show facts which related to a breach of a legal obligation, namely sexual harassment…
‘We conclude that it was (in the public interest) as it raised concerns about the conduct of Mr Lacey towards female members of the public.’
Aside from his claim for unfair dismissal, the tribunal dismissed two other claims, including one of discrimination.
Any compensation will be decided at a future hearing. A Sky spokesman declined to comment on the case.