A Mayfair private members’ club discriminated against black employees when it accommodated a patron’s request for a ‘fair-skinned dealer’, an employment tribunal has found.
A unanimous judgment from the London Central Employment Tribunal said that Crown London Aspinalls had directly discriminated against claimant Semhar Tesfagiorgis because of her race and had treated her less favourably than other employees when it had complied with patrons’ requests for “fair-skinned female dealers” or “western-looking female staff”.
Tesfagiorgis claimed that in December 2019 she and a black colleague were prevented from working as dealers at a patron’s table because he had requested a white employee.
The casino told the tribunal that it felt it was necessary to accommodate patrons’ requests where possible in order to satisfy its customers, which was in its best interest as a business. It also felt dealers benefitted from supporting such requests because the players would likely return and pay more in tips.
The claimant took voluntary redundancy from the organisation in October 2020.
In her witness statement, Tesfagiorgis said the company’s managing director Mr Branson questioned her on whether he should turn away “a million-pound punter” when she raised a complaint. However, this was denied by Branson, who said he had told the claimant the customer would be spoken to. The tribunal favoured Branson’s version of events.
Tesfagiorgis also alleged that the company had prevented her from swapping a shift with a colleague in 2015 because a patron did not want a black dealer. This claim was brought out of time, but the tribunal agreed that had this been brought within the required timeframe it would have been considered unfavourable treatment and direct race discrimination.
The tribunal’s written judgment said: “Our finding is that the claimant and her black female colleagues were held back from going on duty because they were not ‘fair-skinned, female dealers’ or ‘western looking female staff’
“The accommodation of the request was direct race discrimination of the claimant because but for her race she would have been asked to deal to the patron. The granting of that request was less favourable treatment by the managers because of race.”
In a statement issued after the ruling, Tesfagiorgis said: “I tried for many years to open a dialogue about the racism myself and many others were often faced with but I was either shut down, ignored or gaslighted each time.
“The direct discrimination myself and other black colleagues received was not an isolated incident. Although the tribunal could not rule on past events due to time limits, they have acknowledged this was the case and for once Crown Aspinalls will finally be forced to do the same, for this I am grateful to the employment tribunal.”
The claimant made 26 claims against the company, 25 of which were dismissed.
Crown Resorts said in a statement: “Aspinalls notes the judgment by the tribunal in this matter, and we welcome the dismissal by the tribunal of all but one of the claimant’s complaints. Aspinalls is committed to creating a workplace for our employees and a venue for our patrons that is free of discrimination and harassment.
“We are pleased that the tribunal:
- agreed that our senior managers did all they could to investigate and deal with the incident once it was brought to their attention in a supportive and informative manner; and
- did not accept the allegation that the company has a culture of discrimination
- 25 out of 26 claims were dismissed
- one that succeeded was something always accepted shouldn’t have happened, defence was that we believed we’d taken all reasonable steps to make sure it wouldn’t happen but the tribunal considered our equalities training needed to be more specific to meet that threshold
- earlier allegations re racial abuse not part of this hearing or judgment
- found that senior managers took matters very seriously and dealt with the issue supportively and empathetically.
“The tribunal found that there was no harassment by Mr Branson or Ms Attrill and that the meetings with them were supportive and informative. They found Mr Branson empathised with the claimant at the 5 December 2019 meeting and sought to understand her complaints. They found as the fact that Mr Branson and Ms Attrill both acknowledged the gravity of the matter and Mr Branson undertook a wide-ranging investigation which showed the ‘weight’ he attached to the complaint.
“We take on board comments made by the tribunal about the efficacy of our equality training and will continue to work to ensure this is as effective as possible.”