Omooba v Michael Garret Associates – Controversial Religious Beliefs leading to Fair Dismissal

28th March 2024


Ms Omooba was a devout Christian actress who was engaged to play the lead role in a production depicting a romantic relationship between two women. When she agreed to star in the play, she had not read the script and was unaware of the plot.

Following the cast being announced, it was revealed that Ms Omooba had made several Facebook posts calling homosexuality sinful and urging Christians to stand up for their beliefs. The production received a heavy backlash which led to the Claimant being dismissed.

The actress brought a claim against the theatre for direct and indirect discrimination based on religion or belief, harassment and breach of contract. She claimed that her father was a devout Christian pastor and had she read the script, she would not have played the role. The Employment Tribunal found that Ms Omooba was not advocating any more than that other Christians must express their beliefs and they concluded that Ms Omooba’s beliefs did scrape over the threshold for protection. Nevertheless, they dismissed her claims of discrimination and harassment.

Ms Omooba appealed and the EAT rejected her appeal, finding that she was not dismissed because of her expression of belief but because of the adverse effects on the publicity on the cast, the reputation of the producers and commercial success of the production.

Key takeaway points

The case outlines that it can be difficult for employers to manage situations where different protected characteristics are at odds and employers must take care not to discriminate against employees in those circumstances. When contemplating dismissal, employers should always consider whether their controversial beliefs could fall under the category of a protected philosophical belief, as established by the landmark case of Grainger v Nicholson:

  1. the belief must be genuinely held;
  2. it must be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available;
  3. it must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour;
  4. it must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance; and
  5. it must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

If the employees’ belief does qualify as a protected characteristic, employers should be wary that the dismissal may also lead to an ordinary unfair dismissal claim. In the event of such a claim, an employer will be required to prove that the dismissal was fair and reasonable and was based on (a) the employees discriminatory views and (b) reputational damage and that the employees’ continued employment was harming the business (c) a fair process having been followed.

Social media policies

Employers should also consider asking employees to periodically review social media posts and generally requiring employees to ensure that there are no active posts that may contrast with the ethical values of the business or potentially cause reputational damage.

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