In January 2019, Seyi Omooba was cast as the lead role in the theatre production of “Celie” which was to be a joint production by the Curve Theatre Leicester and the Birmingham Hippodrome. Following her appointment in the role, it was brought to light that Ms Omooba had previously made anti LGBT comments on her own social media platform after another actor accused her of being a hypocrite. The basis of the accusations stemmed from the fact Ms Omooba was set to play the role of a woman who, depending on interpretation, is often depicted as a lesbian, despite having shared views saying that homosexuality was sinful and that Christians should stand up for their belief in this.
The backlash that followed led to both the agency that Ms Omooba worked for and the theatre terminating their respective contracts with her. Ms Omooba claimed that this amounted to discrimination on grounds of religious belief, breach of contract and harassment and was seeking a total of £128,000 in compensation.
The judgment noted that the situation would not have arisen but for Ms Omooba’s expression of her own beliefs. However, in respect of the discrimination claim they concluded that it was the adverse effect of the publicity on the cast, the audience’s reception, the reputation of the producers and commercial impact that were the reason for her dismissal, and not her religious belief itself.
In order for the harassment claim to be successful, Ms Omooba had to prove to the tribunal that the dismissal had the purpose or effect of violating her dignity or creating an intimidating or humiliating environment for her. It was found in favour of the theatre that the purpose of the dismissal was to save the production and that it would be unreasonable for this to have the purpose or effect of violating her dignity or creating and intimidating or hostile environment.
Ms Omooba maintained that she would not have taken the role if she had considered the role to be gay. The Employment Tribunal determined therefore that there could not be any financial loss resulting from her dismissal because she would not have played the part.
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