Former employee sues Roundhouse Camden after management told her to remove Palestine flag badge

Tuesday 2 April 2024

Franck Magennis, of the Garden Court Chambers Employment Team, represents the Claimant, Ms Morton-Abuah.

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Ms Catherine Morton-Abuah issued legal proceedings in the Employment Tribunal against her former employer, the Roundhouse music venue in Camden, after management at the venue made her remove a Palestine flag badge from her uniform.

Ms Morton-Abuah was employed by Roundhouse as a Casual Venue Assistant from 5th November 2023. On the day of her first shift, she was visibly wearing her Palestinian flag badge on shift and was not met with any pushback from management.

On the 7th November 2023, Ms Morton-Abuah was assigned a cloakroom shift, working the Universal Music Awards. 20 minutes before doors opened, she was pulled aside by a duty manager, who requested she remove her Palestinian flag badge. She asked why this was and was told that Roundhouse is an ‘apolitical’ venue and cannot be perceived to be ‘taking sides’.

Ms Morton-Abuah removed the badge, but after giving it some thought, decided she did not want to complete her shift. She was horrified that a flag of the Palestinian people, who are facing genocide, would have provoked this response from management. She informed the duty manager that she wanted to go home, giving the reason that she had worn her Palestinian flag badge on 5th November and was not told to remove it. The duty manager responded saying that because this event was ‘more corporate’, precautionary measures, such as requesting staff to remove the Palestinian flag, were necessary.

On the evening of 7th November 2023, Ms Morton-Abuah sent an email to the Head of Visitor Experience about what she had experienced on her shift. The following evening, 8th November 2023, she attended a meeting with the Head of Visitor Experience, who began by saying that Roundhouse stood by their decision to ask for the removal of the Palestinian flag badge. As the conversation progressed and Ms Morton-Abuah raised various counter-arguments and objections, the Head of Visitor Experience stated that the reason for the requirement to remove the badge had been due to Universal Music Awards having a Jewish client and a Jewish performer in attendance. Ms Morton-Abuah responded by pointing out that this was a gross assumption, with many people within the Jewish community openly condemning the occupation and Israeli government violence against Palestinians in Gaza.

She also raised that there was no mention of ‘no badges’ on the uniform policy. The Head of Visitor Experience responded by saying that, moving forward, no badges or flags would be allowed on staff uniforms.

Towards the end of the conversation, the Head of Visitor Experience continuously stressed that Ms Morton-Abuah would now need to reconsider if Roundhouse was an appropriate place for her to work, and that she would need to decide if she still wanted to work with them.

That same week, Ms Morton-Abuah decided to leave her job at Roundhouse. The reason for her decision was that she did not want to work for an organisation that had actively censored the Palestinian flag while the Palestinian people are facing genocide.

On 21st November 2023, Ms Morton-Abuah posted an open statement on Instagram highlighting what had happened during her employment with Roundhouse. Responses to her Instagram post stated that members of the public who attended a Pitchfork Music Festival event on 11th November 2023, were being told to remove anything bearing the Palestinian flag, including one person who was wearing the jersey of the Palestinian national football team.

On 11th December 2023, following her Instagram statement, Ms Morton-Abuah released an open letter. The CEO contacted her via email to arrange a date to meet, which was scheduled for 4th January 2024.

On 4th January 2024, Ms Morton-Abuah met with the CEO and Venue Director. They conceded that any instances of security telling members of the public to remove Palestinian flag stickers, and to cover a Palestinian football jersey, were oversights, and did not result from any instruction from Roundhouse management themselves.

Management also stated in the meeting that Roundhouse had since changed their uniform policy, with a new clause stating that ‘personal items are not allowed on uniform without prior consent’. 

The CEO apologised for the Head of Visitor Experience spreading misinformation. He said that it was not true that Ms Morton-Abuah had been told to remove her Palestinian flag badge because of the presence of Jewish people at the event. The Venue Director wanted to stress that it was in fact because Roundhouse have a duty of care to staff members and members of the public, and they need to protect those who may find a Palestinian flag offensive.

Ms Morton-Abuah’s legal pleadings filed at the Employment Tribunal today assert that she was subject to direct and indirect discrimination and harassment contrary to the Equality Act 2010, and that she was constructively dismissed.

Notes to editor

  • In the case of David Miller v University of Bristol the Employment Tribunal held that the anti-Zionist beliefs in that case were worthy of protection in a democratic society, and that Professor Miller had been dismissed by the University who employed him because of a manifestation of his anti-Zionist beliefs. Al Jazeera coverage here.
  • There is an ongoing campaign at the Roundhouse by members of staff with the aim of persuading the venue to adopt a better policy regarding staff and visitors who manifest their support for Palestinians and opposition to Zionism.
  • Ms Morton-Abuah’s case comes amid a wave censorship of pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist employees across Britain. Many employers have imposed detriments and dismissals against workers who express criticism of Israeli government actions and support for Palestinians. Read this Institute of Employment Rights (IER) article 'Protecting free speech on Israel/Palestine' for further information.
  • On 26 January 2024 the ICJ made an interim judgment in the case of South Africa v Israel ordering Israel to implement provisional measures. The judgment can be found here.

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