Social media post resulted in a fair dismissal

An actress, billed to play a lesbian character, was not subjected to discrimination or harassment by either her agent or the theatre she was working for when she was dismissed, a tribunal has found.   

The employment tribunal ruled that Leicester Theatre Trust was making a business decision when it terminated its contract with Seyi Omooba after it came to light that she had previously posted on her public Facebook page that she did “not believe homosexuality is right”.

The tribunal found that the theatre’s chief executive had not discriminated against her, but “made a commercial decision”.

In March 2019, it was announced that Omooba would be playing a character who falls in love and has a relationship with another female character. However, soon after the announcement, a publicly viewable Facebook post, made by Omooba in 2014, started circulating widely on Twitter. In the post, Omooba said: “I do not believe you can be born gay and I do not believe homosexuality is right, though the law of this land has made it legal doesn’t mean it’s right. I do believe that [sic].

The post came to the attention of the chief executive, who contacted Omooba’s agent and asked whether the actress had changed her views since the post was made. He was told she hadn’t and so asked for a written statement from Omooba whose statement said “As for the personal faith I will stand firm.”

The chief executive feared the issue could lead to boycotts, audience booing and demands for ticket refunds and so terminated her engagement however honoured the full contract sum. However, an implication of this action was that Omooba’s agent refused to represent her any further, claiming that she was “unmarketable”.

Omooba brought a tribunal claim against both the theatre and former agency on the grounds her career had been damaged because of her religious beliefs.

Both claims were dismissed. This is a reminder that employees can be held to their views displayed on social media.

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