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EAT rules that terminating contract of Christian actress after Facebook post expressing her beliefs on homosexuality was not discriminatory

In the case of Ms S O v (1) Michael Garrett Associates Ltd (ta Global Artists) (2) Leicester Theatre Ltd an actress sacked over a Facebook post attacking homosexuality has had her claim for discrimination, breach of contract and harassment rejected.

In the case of Ms S O v (1) Michael Garrett Associates Ltd (ta Global Artists) (2) Leicester Theatre Ltd an actress sacked over a Facebook post attacking homosexuality has had her claim for discrimination, breach of contract and harassment rejected.

The claimant was set to play a lesbian role in a production of ‘The Colour Purple’. After the claimant’s casting was announced, a social media storm developed regarding a previous Facebook post made by the claimant in which she stated her religious beliefs in relation to homosexuality.

In response to the publicity storm, the claimant’s contracts with the theatre and her agency were terminated. She issued a claim alleging, amongst other things, direct discrimination on the ground of religion or belief.

The tribunal found that the theatre terminated the contract because of the effect of the adverse publicity on the cohesion of the cast, audience reception, the producers’ reputation and the standing and commercial success of the production. The agency’s reason for terminating the contract was its fear that the publicity storm threatened the agency’s survival.

The tribunal concluded that neither the claimant’s belief nor manifestation of her belief were the operative reason for the decisions taken and that the real reasons were separable from any such belief and/or any manifestation of it.

The EAT upheld these conclusions, noting that the tribunal had carried out a detailed evaluation of the evidence.

Miss Omooba had claimed the character’s sexuality was ambiguous and she would have refused the role if she had considered her gay.

But this was rejected by the panel, with the panel commenting: “She had taken part in a similar production, she had the script, and knowing that a lesbian relationship was at least one interpretation, she should have considered much earlier whether a red line was to be crossed.”

The panel also rejected Ms Omooba’s demands for compensation for loss of earnings, future losses and reputational damage as a result of her agency contract being terminated.

“There is no financial loss because she would not have played the part,” it said.

“There is no loss of opportunity to enhance her reputation by performing, because she would not have played the part.

“If there is damage to her reputation, it was not caused by being dropped from the production but by an unconnected person’s tweeting… of her Facebook post and the outcry resulting from that.”

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