Fri 23 Apr 2021

Employment Tribunal - Discrimination Round-up April 2021

Christian actress was not discriminated against when homophobic views made public

Ms Seyi Omooba v Michael Garret Associates Ltd T/a Global Artists and Leicester Theatre Trust Ltd: 2202946/2019 and 2602362/2019

An actress, Seyi Omooba, was unsuccessful in her claim at an Employment Tribunal (ET) for religious discrimination, harassment and breach of contract against Leicester Theatre Trust Ltd and her former agents, Global Artists. She brought the claims after she was removed from a part playing a lesbian woman in the Colour Purple after a post on Facebook was shared by another actor unconnected to the production. In the post from 2014, the Claimant had said that she did not believe that homosexuality was right or that people can be born gay. Following a backlash on social media, the Claimant was dropped from the production.

At the ET, the Respondents argued that she had been dismissed not because of her beliefs but because in the particular circumstances of this case her role in the production was "untenable". However, the Claimant confirmed in the ET that she hadn't read the full script so wasn't aware of the role being a lesbian part and that she wouldn't have performed the role had she known. The ET agreed with the Respondent and rejected the claim.

The ET found that the decision to terminate was not on grounds of religion or belief but the wider issues for the Respondents of proceeding with a production in the particular circumstances: 'it was important that she was not perceived by audience and company as hostile to lesbians. The decision to terminate was made to deal with the dysfunctional situation that arose from the context and circumstances of the public retweeting. The religious belief itself was not the reason why the theatre decided this. It was the commercial and artistic reality of the cluster of factors that it would not succeed.'

Having had her claim rejected by the Tribunal, the Claimant has also been ordered to pay full costs, which could amount to over £300,000. Whilst costs orders of this level are the exception rather than the rule, this case serves as a reminder of the wide discretionary power the ET has in awarding cost orders where it deems it necessary. In this case the ET suspected the Claimant and her representatives were bringing a 'weak claim as a vehicle to promote a cause'.  Miss Omooba was represented by the Christian Legal Centre, who have said that they will appeal the ET decision.

Muslim nuclear engineer reported as 'security risk' succeeds with religious discrimination claim

Mr M Master v Springfield Fuels Limited 2413565/2018

The Claimant was an engineer at the Respondent's plant near Preston who had taken voluntary redundancy in 2018.  Following his redundancy he was visited by officers from the Prevent anti-terrorism agency. It transpired that his former employer had made a report to the Office for Nuclear Regulation, which contacted Prevent, following allegations made by his colleagues. His colleagues alleged that he had said that he had become “vocal about Allah” and expressed concern that he could have access to material that could be used to make a “dirty bomb”. They also accused him of saying that British troops in the Middle East "deserved to die".

The Claimant brought a claim for religious discrimination regarding the allegations and also accused the Respondent of refusing flexible working for Friday prayers. He also alleged constructive dismissal and disability discrimination. All of his claims failed apart from the claim concerning the report to the regulator. The ET found that the concerns were reported as fact rather than 'unsubstantiated rumour' and amounted to religious discrimination. The Claimant was awarded £3,500 for injury to feelings.  However, he was ordered to pay costs of just over £7,000 to the Respondent in relation to some of the other claims that were dismissed by the ET.

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