Morality-Based Employment Discrimination

My employment with a UK-based, mainstream fashion brand was recently terminated on account of my adult work and business conflicting with the interests of the company.

When I accepted the job of Multimedia Designer and Developer with Missguided it did not occur to me that my experience in the online adult industry might work against me.

I lasted five days in what seemed a perfectly suited role for my skills, experience and enthusiasm before the company terminated my contract under the probationary terms of employment. The only explanation they gave shortly before marching me out of the building was ‘for reasons we can’t elaborate on at this time.’

Of course, I was certain of the reasoning behind it and I was aware that they took a view that, in my opinion, was narrow-minded and shallow of the adult work I have produced but instead of allowing me the courtesy of responding to their concerns they chose to cut ties.

An ‘official‘ reason eventually came through the recruiting agency that had placed me in the role; I was told that Missguided felt my adult business ‘conflicted’ with the interests and values of their brand.

I have still yet to receive any official, written confirmation of my contact’s termination.

Additional frustration was caused due to the fact that I had been upfront and honest from the very start with Pervlens Media proudly placed on my CV (which both interviewers had with them during my interview), we discussed areas of work I had been engaged in in the past and they had over three weeks to do their due diligence before my start date.

It was especially surprising to me as Missguided paints itself as an edgy, modern, progressive and fresh brand and I thought if anyone would be able to look past the adult content, even embrace it as something that makes my experience that little more unique, they would.

I have held jobs previously in roles with companies like Urban Vision, a partnership with Salford City Council, that had me, on a regular basis, coming into contact and dealing with council officers, Councillors, elected officials and members of the public.

It is probably a well-known fact, perhaps even to be expected, that a past in adult films will close off mainstream opportunities and employment .

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Renee Richards, a well-known UK adult ex-performer, has experienced such discrimination too, and lost at least two jobs due to her past life, commenting;

“I worked in the adult (porn) industry for four and a half years, and performed in over 200 films. In that time I did not feel degraded nor did I find working in the industry demeaning. However, since leaving the industry I have been treated in a demeaning and degrading way by people who are not in the adult industry, who have either found out of their own volition that I used to work in the adult industry, or by me telling them.”

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I wanted to share my experience as this kind of discrimination is often allowed under current employment law and is rarely spoken about and contrary to what people may think affects those behind the camera too such as back office and support staff of adult companies just as much as it can affect the performers and ‘stars’ of adult entertainment.

Legal advice that I sought shortly after the termination confirmed that the law is not only extremely employer-sided in the first two years of employment, especially so during the probationary period, but employers are not even legally obliged to elaborate or give written confirmation of the reasons for dismissal.

It has left me pondering – when did the UK become a place where we allow judgements on an individual with work history in a perfectly legal industry who was upfront and honest about it influence the ability or skill to do a job?

[Note: Missguided have been contacted for comment. At the time of publication, no reply has been received.]

12 thoughts on “Morality-Based Employment Discrimination”

  1. Although you have no qualifying service period for protection under the Employment Rights Act, you do still have protection under contract law (accessed through the county courts). If the employer breached the express, or implied terms of that contract you can ‘ave ’em 😉 Company policy, handbooks, rules, and custom and practice are all sources of those terms. Solicitors might only look at your rights under the ERA.
    Good luck!

    1. Thanks Pie.

      Unfair dismissal is still something i am looking at pursuing. All I have by way of documentation from the company is a contract and no where in that contract are there clauses relating to conflicting businesses or operating another business in general.

      1. They may go for activities incompatible with the company profile or customer expectations. If you pursue it you could try asking for copies of relevant policies, handbook and disciplinary procedures. Also compare the policy and practice of similar companies, a judge would do a comparator test (what would other similar and reasonable employers do in similar circumstances?).
        There may be equality issues if the decision would affect one group of people more than another (you’d need to look at the make up of your part of the adult industry), but that’s pushing it a bit 😉

  2. I suffered the identical problem (in 2008) with British Telecom, who, despite full knowledge of my freelance photography work, (indeed they were happy to make use of my skills on a number of occasions), suddenly decided it was inappropriate after four years with the company.

    It was actually a ruse to hide the fact that they were shrinking the department in which I worked (in advertising) because they had totally misread the sustainability of the marketplace in which I was working and needed to shed a considerable number of people in similar roles. Other rival businesses did exactly the same.

    Since then I have happily worked as a photographer as a sole trader and have recently actually found the upturn in the economy has worked in my favour.

    Admittedly I do not have Ben’s youth and can perhaps choose the approach I now have safe in the knowledge that there is other income to hand to cushion the odd gap in cash-flow. I have considerable sympathy for the way you have been treated Ben and hope you get justice

    1. Thanks Barney. It is a shame and I guess the real reason for my disappointment may well be that I’ve had other companies who knew about it and recognised it was none of their business.

      If I’m honest I’d rather not work with a company who has such a clear issue with my work in the adult industry. It just wouldn’t be comfortable.

  3. This is why its important to maintain a profile away from the ne you need to live with everyday. There is no need to disclose your activities to people who are going to judge you on things that have no concern with the work they have taken you on to do.

    This does highlight a problem that needs more transparency As Renee said when she was relieved of her job waitressing in a restaurant and later on as a teacher

    “A lot of people don’t know about the legal position of the adult business”

    http://thenakedtruthpodcast.podomatic.com/entry/2014-03-20T11_09_46-07_00

    I dont see how what she did in the past should affect her ability to do the job she was clearly qualified for to do in the present

    The adult business should try to be more transparent. Most of the arguments levelled at it is met with silence and for the most part its because the adult industry feel its pre judged or shouted down and not listened to when it does give answers.

    That said, do critics really care enough to learn about it? Probably not but let’s provide the answers anyway and not give them an excuse to continue their discrimination through ignorance.

    1. @nakedtruthguy I take the point re keeping things separate but, at the risk of sounding naive, we should not need to.

      Part of the reason why keeping two very different identities wasn’t something I wanted to do was because a) I’m proud of my work in the adult industry and b) it is where I have developed the majority of my technical skills especially on the web development front.

      If we hide it that’s often the reason employers can use but also if we all were to conceal it how can we tackle the discrimination because there wouldn’t be any.

  4. Thats a fair point and a commendable one given most people (to quote a recent comment) couldnt be “bothered with the aggro”

    Like you I wouldve used this as a platform to demonstrate the same point you are making but its not without understanding why people have adopted pseudonyms in a society that lives by double standards

    Youre absolutely right though. We cant expect change if we cannot use these examples as a platform to make the point of moral discrimination when its been so blatant in other areas of the media where people have hid in plain sight to perpetrate worse crimes but are seen as of good standing in the community whilst clearly they were not

  5. I’ve been stuck in this exact trap for far to long it would seem. I’m 55 years old and having spent 32 years in porn, the work has now dried up (pun intended). So looking for a job with such a CV and at my age has so far proved totally fruitless. ”You’ve been doing what for 30 years, Mr Wells ?”

    1. Sorry to hear that Dave.

      I always felt that as long as I kept a foot in the mainstream camp too with a full-time, part-time or contract gig to keep my CV in shape I’d be ok. I was wrong.

      It’s deeply frustrating too because the skills and ability I’ve developed over my time in adult have often far outweighed the amount of development I’ve done in mainstream employment.

      Skills and ability should transferable whatever the role.

  6. Update: since writing the article above re Missguided’s decision to terminate my contract based on a perceived conflict of interests I have reached out my local MP.

    I passed my letter, which mostly comprised of this post and some additional background, to Hazel Blears, MP for Salford and Eccles, although she is stepping down at the end of March she has passed my letter to Nicky Morgan MP, the Minister for Equality, and her office will feedback as appropriate.

    I have basically called for a tightening up of employment law in respect to the terminating of contracts based on anything other than misconduct or performance.

    I also passed a copy to my local Green Candidate MP, Emma Van Dyke.

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