By Nicholas Hartman
Israel Folau has lodged court proceedings for unlawful termination against Rugby Australia, according to the ABC.
This development comes after the parties had an unsuccessful Fair Work Commission conciliation meeting.
“Our conciliation before the Fair Work Commission did not resolve the matters between us,” Folau said, posting to his website.
“Accordingly, I am today commencing court proceedings against Rugby Australia and the NSW Waratahs.
“I have been blessed to have received the support of tens of thousands of Australians throughout my journey, and I want to say thank you to everyone who has offered their prayers and support.
“It has meant so much to [my wife] Maria and me over the last few months and gives us strength for the road ahead.”
According to his initial application filed with the Fair Work Commission, Folau is seeking $10 million in compensation for the remainder of his contract and loss of future earnings.
Folau is claiming that he was terminated due to his religious beliefs, as he had his $1 million-per-year, four year contract terminated shortly after he published a post on Instagram that condemned homosexuals, and others, to hell if they did not repent.
Rugby Australia said they had decided to terminate Folau’s contract for breaching the professional players’ code of conduct, a decision reinforced when an independent tribunal upheld Rugby Australia’s position.
Folau appealed to the Fair Work Commission, and in the meantime with the help of the Australian Christian Lobby, collected $2 million to help fund Folau’s legal case.
Folau’s case is seen as a test case – meaning that any ruling, in favour of Folau or Rugby Australia, will establish a precedent for future, similar cases.
“It is expected to set a precedent for anyone who posts to social media something that is in conflict with his or her code of conduct, be it with an employer or another organisation such as a university or sporting club,” writes ABC national sports reporter David Mark
“The burden of proof in this case will lie with Rugby Australia to establish that it did not terminate Folau’s contract based on his religious beliefs, but rather that the decision was purely an employment matter.
“Rugby Australia will rely on its initial charge that Folau was guilty of a high-level breach of the code of conduct, which forms a standard part of all its contracts.
“The code says players should ‘treat everyone equally, fairly and with dignity regardless of … sexual orientation … Any form of bullying, harassment or discrimination has no place in Rugby’.”