A carer has been awarded £3,000 after her colleagues ridiculed her Facebook modelling photos, branding her a ‘sl*t’ and saying she ‘belonged on a porn site’.
Claire Wallace, 48, who describes herself as an ‘alternative model’, was harassed by fellow carers at Acomb Court Care Home in Hexham, Northumberland, who compared her risque photos to a ‘go go dancer’ and prostitutes, an employment tribunal heard.
The care assistant was brought to tears after one of her colleagues added her on Facebook and ridiculed revealing images of her wearing ‘a black leather basque and fishnet stockings’, the hearing was told.
But the mother-of-one has now been awarded a sum of £3,320 after the tribunal ruled that she had been harassed by colleagues, who compared her to ‘prostitutes from Newcastle.’
Miss Wallace started working as a care assistant for HC One at the care home in October 2019.
Claire Wallace, 48, (pictured) who describes herself as an ‘alternative model’, was harassed by her fellow care home workers, who compared her risque photos to a ‘go go dancer’
In December 2019, a senior carer called Helen Hewison added Miss Wallace on Facebook after looking her up.
A few days later Ms Hewison used her phone to show photos from Miss Wallace’s Facebook page of her wearing a black leather basque and fishnet stockings – done for a rock magazine when she had been a model – to three fellow colleagues.
The colleagues were Darren Wilmot, Shirley Charlton and Felisia Rosales Garcia.
The tribunal in Newcastle heard that Ms Hewison said she looked like a ‘sl*t’ and asked Mr Wilmot ‘doesn’t she look like a sl*t?’ He agreed saying she ‘looked like she belonged on a porn site’.
Ms Charlton shook her head and said nothing. Ms Garcia said she ‘looked like a go-go dancer’.
Miss Wallace was brought to tears after one of her colleagues added her on Facebook and ridiculed revealing images of her wearing ‘a black leather basque and fishnet stockings’
Miss Wallace said that she tried to laugh it off, went upstairs to get a rota and, when she came down, Ms Hewison asked if she was married.
Miss Wallace told the tribunal that she replied saying she was not, but had co-habited with a couple of men over the years. She claimed that Ms Hewison replied ‘one in the front, one out the back’.
When Miss Wallace clocked off to go home that day, Ms Hewison shouted at her ‘where you going? Pink Lane?’. Pink Lane is an area in Newcastle where sex workers are understood to operate.
Miss Wallace told the tribunal that she left in tears and was so visibly upset that a member of the public asked if she was OK.
The tribunal heard that, about a week later, an anonymous complaint was received through HC One’s whistleblowing hotline.
The caller claimed they had been in the lobby of the home and overheard Ms Hewison, Mr Wilmot, Ms Charlton and Ms Garcia ‘passing around Miss Wallace’s photograph making fun of her and calling her a prostitute and a sl*t’.
They also claimed to have heard the ‘go-go dancer’ and ‘Pink Lane’ comments.
Miss Wallace told the tribunal that she left in tears and was so visibly upset by the comments that a member of the public asked if she was OK
Lynne McCarron, the home manager, carried out an investigation the next day by taking statements from the four colleagues but the tribunal heard that she did not speak to Miss Wallace.
They claimed that Miss Wallace was the one who showed them a photograph and talked about being a model, which ‘led to them laughing and joking about it’.
They said Miss Wallace ‘routinely showed staff pictures of herself’ while none admitted to hearing any reference to Pink Lane.
The tribunal described Ms Hewison’s interview as ‘a tirade of criticism of Miss Wallace’s work, none of which she had raised with anyone else before’.
Ms McCarron’s conclusion, reached without speaking to Miss Wallace, was that the anonymous complaint ‘did not tally’ with the statements and all the employees including Miss Wallace had been participating in ‘banter’.
The tribunal heard that the only result of the investigation was ‘supervision sessions with staff involved’ and a reiteration of the company’s bullying policy.
Acomb Court Care Home in Hexham, Northumberland, where co-workers compared her risque photos to a ‘go go dancer’ and prostitutes, an employment tribunal heard
In January 2020 Miss Wallace was sacked due to concerns about her ‘not grasping the basics’ of her role and failing to fulfill certain training requirements.
Employment Judge Tudor Mansel Garnon ruled that Miss Wallace was harassed by her colleagues.
He said: ‘Even if not having the purpose of violating her dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for her, taking into account her perception and the other circumstances it was entirely reasonable for the conduct to have that effect.
‘The comment about her looking like a ‘go go dancer’, and maybe even a ‘porn star’, could be described as ‘banter’ but those about being a sl*t and going to Pink Lane could not.
‘Even if [Miss Wallace] had showed photographs of her modelling career at some times, that is not licence to say to her things implying she was a promiscuous ‘sl*t’ or a prostitute.
‘A woman who has been a model, and proudly so, is bound to be hurt by any implication she is a ‘sl*t’ or a prostitute. It reduced her to tears.’
She was awarded £3,000 in compensation and a further £320 in interest. Separate claims for sex discrimination, victimisation and unlawful deduction of wages were unsuccessful
Miss Wallace, speaking after the tribunal, said the modelling photo was taken for Femme Rebelle magazine when she was 45 and that she had been doing modelling work ‘on and off since since I was 17’.
She said: ‘After the tribunal, I felt like somebody finally believed me because I just felt like I was being bullied.
‘I was treated like an outcast in that home. I was bullied because I was different when all I wanted to do was go in and be a good carer.
‘They tried to say it was me who showed them the photos. I had just finished a 12 hour shift and the last thing I wanted to do was go ‘oh look at these pictures of me modelling’.
‘I couldn’t believe it. I was gobsmacked, absolutely shocked that they could say those things about anybody. That was disgusting.
‘They then tried to say it was a joke. I was degraded and humiliated and left that job in tears and that was ‘a joke’ to them.
‘I was humiliated when I left work in tears and then I was humiliated again when they marched me off the premises after they sacked me.
‘When you look at my photos, I don’t even think they are sort of explicit. It might be suggestive but I wouldn’t even say that because I just see a blonde doing a rock chick shoot.
‘You can see that it is quite tasteful. One of them said something about the fishnets, but what am I supposed to wear if I’m going for the rock chick look? You have got to look the part.
‘I have seen porn and I think that what I do is nothing compared to what porn stars do. Anyway, if I was doing porn I wouldn’t be working in a care home for £7 an hour.
‘At the end of the day, even if I was the biggest prostitute in Hexham – which I can promise I am not – it doesn’t matter what you do in your private life as long as you go in there and do your job well.’