Mayfair casino ‘granted millionaire member’s request for white dealer instead of black woman’

Aisha Rimi
Thursday 14 October 2021 12:11
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<p>Semhar Tesfagiorgis is suing the private Mayfair casino Aspinalls after being harrassed and victimised  </p>

Semhar Tesfagiorgis is suing the private Mayfair casino Aspinalls after being harrassed and victimised

A woman is suing a Mayfair casino over claims she was subjected to racial discrimination by millionaire members when she worked as a dealer.

Semhar Tesfagiorgis is suing the private casino Aspinalls, owned by Crown, as well as Crown’s managing director Michael Branson and the company’s HR manager Laura Attrill.

The dealer’s claims include direct race and sex discrimination, as well as indirect sex discrimination, harassment and victimisation. Her former employers deny the claims against them.

The respondents deny the claims against them.

In December 2019, Mrs Tesfagiorgis said she complained to management about an alleged incident in which a patron at the casino asked for a “fair-skinned dealer”, the Central London Employment Tribunal in London heard.

In her witness statement, Mrs Tesfagiorgis said that on 4 December, the patron made the request to Aspinalls marketing team, who asked front-of-house management to deal with it.

She said the casino arranged for white male dealers to attend to the patron instead of asking her.

Mrs Tesfagiorgis and another black female staff member were kept away from the patron and segregated, the tribunal heard.

After raising the complaint on 5 December, she said Mr Branson asked her if she expected him to “turn away a million-pound customer” and that the patron could not be racist due to a friendship he had.

On 6 December, Mrs Tesfagiorgis said she was asked to meet with Mr Branson and HR manager Laura Attrill about the incident.

Ms Attrill told the tribunal in her evidence that she attended the meeting at the request of Mrs Tesfagiorgis, but did not take notes as she did not realise that was what she was there for.

She said: “I was just asked if I could attend a meeting and I listened as intently as I could.”

Ms Attrill said she could not recall any complaints about racism prior to the December 2019 incident.

She said: “If it was raised, it would have raised some form of action.”

However, Elaine Banton, lawyer for Mrs Tesfagiorgis, said an email had been forwarded to the HR manager in 2017, after she had complained of a racist incident at the casino and had suggested staff and management join together to discuss how racist incidents were handled.

She suggested a forum be set up for all incidents, but this did not materialise.

Ms Banton said: “That opportunity was missed and it was not addressed.”

She told the tribunal that at the time of the 2019 complaint, Aspinalls had just three black front-of-house staff members, who were all women.

Ms Attrill said there were black members of staff in other departments across the company and an unacceptable patron’s behaviour policy is in place which outlines what staff members at the company should do if patrons break rules issued to them.

Ms Banton said: “I suggest that there was a systemic issue at the workplace that involved racial profiles that should have been addressed.”

The tribunal also heard that Mrs Tesfagiorgis had emailed HR about issues she had had with development and training opportunities at the company, which Ms Attrill said she “did not infer was due to her race and sex”.

The tribunal was adjourned until later today.

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