By Nicholas Hartman
A February 2020 trial may await Israel Folau and Rugby Australia if the two parties fail to resolve their differences, after a judge encouraged both parties to meet in the middle and settle their dispute.
At a directions hearing this week Chief judge of the Federal Circuit Court, Will Alstergren, set a date of 13 December for both parties to solve their dispute through mediation.
Folau is seeking $10m in damages, his contract reinstated by his former employers and an apology, claiming his contract was unlawfully terminated on religious discrimination grounds. Rugby Australia moved to terminate Folau’s employment after the footballer published an Instagram post about gay people going to hell unless they repented.
Rugby Australia maintains it dismissed Folau for deliberately breaching their social media policy for the second time. Folau had published a post with a similar theme a year earlier, and Rugby Australia claims it made it well aware to Folau what the organisation’s social media policies were, and that Folau understood the implications of the post he made earlier this year.
At the hearing, lawyers for Rugby Australia indicated that they may consider applying for the case to be moved from the Federal Circuit Court to the Federal Court of Australia, and to have the case transferred to Sydney – home to all 3 parties (Folau; Rugby Australia; and the New South Wales Waratahs, Folau’s club side who are co-signatory on his playing contract).
According to the Guardian, Folau’s lawyer Stuart Wood warned Judge Alstergren that that move from Rugby Australia’s lawyers was an attempt to delay proceedings.
That allegation was denied by Adam Hochroth, Rugby Australia’s lawyer.
If the mediation on 13 December fails, the parties will return to court for another directions hearing on 17 December.