Tribunal rules reporter unfairly dismissed

The London-based ABC News correspondent who claimed he was fired because he refused assignments in Iraq and Afghanistan won his unfair dismissal case against the network on Friday.

A London employment tribunal ruled in favor of Richard Gizbert, who is claiming £2.3 million ($4 million) in lost earnings, the equivalent of his salary from June 2004, when his freelance contract was ended, to age 65. A hearing to fix compensation will be held early next year.

The landmark case, which began Sept. 23, invoked the U.K.’s employment health and safety rules, which make it illegal for a boss to dismiss an employee for raising a bona fide complaint about his or her safety.

Gizbert claimed the case had ramifications for reporters, many of whom, he said, were being strong-armed into taking dangerous assignments in Iraq.

ABC argued that all assignments to war zones and other dangerous areas were voluntary and that it dismissed Gizbert because he was inessential and it was making cuts. But the tribunal rejected ABC News’ contention.

Gizbert joined ABC News in 1993 as a correspondent working in the London bureau, which covers Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

In 2001, he decided he no longer wanted to cover war zones and moved to a freelance contract guaranteeing him 100 days work a year at ABC at a daily rate of $1,000.

“This ruling amounts to a vindication for an individual, it amounts to an indictment for one particular company, ABC News/Disney, and it’s a warning to other news organizations that your voluntary war zone policy has to mean what it says,” Gizbert said.

An ABC News spokesman said the broadcaster would be “vigorously appealing this decision.”

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