Court ruling on direct discrimination – actor dismissed following outcries over views on homosexuality

Wednesday 27th March 2024

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) have dismissed an appeal against a tribunal’s decision that a Christian actor was not discriminated against after she was dismissed from her role in a production.


In Omooba v Michael Garrett Associates Ltd and another, the tribunal decided a Christian actor did not suffer direct religion or belief discrimination after their dismissal. Omooba was cast in the role of a lesbian character in the theatre production of The Colour Purple in early 2019.  Shortly after the announcement, a social media storm began surrounding her publicly expressed belief that homosexuality is a sin. Following the adverse publicity, LTT Ltd, which ran the theatre, terminated her contract and offered to pay the actor the money she would have been entitled to under it. MGA Ltd, the actor’s agency, also terminated their relationship.

Omooba brought multiple claims against the companies, including direct religion or belief discrimination and breach of contract. Prior to the hearing, the actor made it known that she had no intention to play the casted role and would have resigned in due course had she not been dismissed.


The tribunal concluded that the theatre’s decision to terminate was a result of the impact the social media storm would have on the production, and on its commercial viability, not because of Omooba’s beliefs. There were fears that the audience’s knowledge of the actor’s beliefs may cause disruptions, boycotts, or possibly demonstrations outside the theatre. The actor was given the opportunity to issue a public statement to attempt to resolve the issue, however she refused. The tribunal also concluded that the agency’s decision to terminate was taken because of the commercial risk to its business. A costs award was also passed down to the actor, she appealed to the EAT.

The EAT dismissed the appeal. The EAT rejected the actor’s argument that her belief was an operative reason for the treatment. They observed that distinctions between context and reason are fact-sensitive and can require nuanced judgments. The tribunal, having carried out a detailed evaluation of the evidence, reached permissible conclusions as to the operative reasons for each of the decisions in issue, which were not Omooba’s beliefs.


Navigating employee’s beliefs or religious views is something which many employers can find tricky, particularly where employees hold genuine beliefs which others may consider controversial or offensive.

For any further guidance or assistance, please get in touch with a member of the Employment Team who will be happy to help.