Casino dealer ‘subjected to racial discrimination by millionaire members’

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A woman claims she was subjected to racial discrimination by the millionaire members of a casino where she worked as a dealer.

Semhar Tesfagiorgis is bringing an employment action against private Mayfair casino Aspinalls, owned by Crown, Crown’s managing director Michael Branson and the company’s HR manager Laura Attrill.

She claims she was subjected to direct race and sex discrimination, indirect sex discrimination, harassment and victimisation while working there.

The respondents deny the claims against them.

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

Semhar Tesfagiorgis tribunal
Semhar Tesfagiorgis arrives at the Central London Employment Tribunal (Aaron Chown/PA)

The casino arranged for white, male dealers to attend to the patron instead of asking her.

She said she and another black, female staff member were kept away from the patron and segregated.

Mrs Tesfagiorgis said in her statement that on December 5, she was summoned to a private meeting with Mr Branson after she raised the issue.

She said he 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 December 6, Mrs Tesfagiorgis said she was summoned to a meeting 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 Ms Attrill 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.

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 Thursday.

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