Issue 702/May 2020
Your weekly bulletin of wit and wonder
What does your backdrop say about you..?
How cabin crew gossip can end a career
DISTANCE WITH CONFIDENCE
Part 3 of our weekly lockdown checklist
IT'S BEHIND YOU!
Once all I needed to worry about was my hair and my choice of jacket or top. Those were the days HEY! PAY ATTENTION! Stop looking over my shoulder!
Because now it’s all about the backdrop.
Of course, our webcam never lines up with our direction of gaze, so we’re all permanently staring off into the middle distance rather than making eye contact with anyone, which is weird enough. It’s even more disconcerting, though, to know that my fellow Zoomers are checking out what’s going on behind me. I feel like a panto dame…
I’m working from the dining room table and, hands up, the wall just isn’t exciting. I’ve pulled in a few decorative items but they just look awkward - like members of the public coaxed into a magic act. They don’t really know what they’re doing there.
Then again, I could hit the virtual backdrop button and talk to you in front of Sydney Harbour Bridge, like a BBC foreign correspondent. Or I could chat while the Earth floats in space behind me, but if I lean too far back in my seat I will slip out of view as my webcam loses its grip on me - and then re-emerge limb by limb, like a calf being born. Try it. It’s like being in your own 1980s episode of Doctor Who.
There’s an argument for a plain backdrop, so you’ll focus on ME. But am I missing an opportunity to impress you all with, say, a well-stocked bookshelf? Bookshelf backdrops are the BEST when it comes to a nice bit of judging. You can really size a person up with those tell-tale spines. Ian Hislop on Have I Got News For You has what looks like the British Library over his left ear… albeit a messy corner of it.
You have to do a careful edit, though. OUT with all those Jackie Collins and James Herbert paperbacks and IN with a few Prof Stephen Hawking tomes, a selection of David Attenboroughs, a sprinkling of Bill Brysons, at least one Louis Theroux and a few Rupert annuals for retro wit…
What other books should I put in my library backdrop once IKEA has delivered the bookcase..?
Please suggest - and share your own backdrops - over on the Facebook page.
Meanwhile, can someone explain to me why we’re all waving like The Railway Children beside the tracks when it’s time to go..?
Speaking of waving goodbye brings me to Lawson v Virgin Atlantic Airways - and how workplace gossip can cloud an employee dismissal and end in tribunal.
Mr Mark Lawson, a pilot for Virgin Atlantic Airways was dismissed in May 2017. On 25 September 2015, he flew with two co-pilots from Heathrow to Hong Kong. After the flight, rumours began to circulate among his colleagues that he had fallen asleep while his co-pilots were out of the flight deck. Mr Lawson asserted that these rumours were untrue, but that “his colleagues were reluctant to work with him as a result.”
On 12 October 2015, Virgin Airways began an investigation into the rumours, standing Mr Lawson down from flying from then until 3 November 2015. He “was not told that he had done anything wrong and was not placed under any restrictions.” Virgin Airways never published the results of the investigation, while Mr Lawson said it was normal practice to publish a report.
The rumours and gossip continued and in a meeting on 13 October 2015 Mr Lawson was asked “if he had taken ‘40 winks while the FO’s [flight officers] were out of the flight deck?’”. Mr Lawson said the absence of a report meant he could not properly defend himself; as a consequence, he began to suffer stress and anxiety, later diagnosed as an adjustment disorder.
On 9 and 10 April 2016, Mr Lawson underwent flight simulation assessment and failed. Re-tested on 3 May, he failed again. It is these failed tests that Virgin Airways cites as the reason for Mr Lawson’s dismissal on 19 May 2017.
Mr Lawson claimed he should not have failed, that the assessor was unnecessarily aggressive, and that [Virgin Airways] was “out to get him and rigged the sim”. He then brought a claim for unfair dismissal and for disability discrimination to the Employment Tribunal.
In January 2019, the ET considered Mr Lawson’s disability discrimination claim, ruling that he was not disabled on the dates of the flight simulations. The ET also found that on these dates Mr Lawson was suffering from “a reaction to adverse circumstances”, accepting that at the time Mr Lawson was dismissed, he had been diagnosed with an adjustment disorder and had a mental impairment. However, the ET found that this impairment did not have “a substantial and long-term effect on his ability to carry out normal day to day activities.”
His disability discrimination claim was therefore dismissed.
However, at the Employment Appeal Tribunal his unfair dismissal claim was reinstated. The EAT said the rumours about Mr Lawson were “untrue, but his colleagues were reluctant to work with him.” Mr Lawson is claiming £1.7 million and this case will be heard at a later date. We’ll update you!
The importance of properly concluding investigations into employee conduct can’t be overstated. A conclusive final report helps put an end to workplace gossip, minimising accusations of unfair dismissal.
THE AUTHENTIC LOCKDOWN LIST (PART 3)
You’re not REALLY experiencing lockdown unless you can tick all of the following:
1. You think nothing of hitting a pan with a wooden spoon for two minutes while your neighbours watch
2. You’re clinging to The One Show for comfort
3. You’re worried about how much you agree with Piers Morgan these days
More next week. So you can check again on whether you’re doing it right.