SYDNEY (AFP) – Israel Folau is set to launch legal action against Rugby Australia this week, a report said yesterday, with the sacked Wallabies fullback saying: “All I ask is to be treated fairly and by the law.”
The devoutly Christian NSW Waratahs star had his contract terminated last month after a tribunal found him guilty of a “high-level” breach of the governing body’s code of conduct.
He posted on social media that “hell awaits” gay people and others he considers sinners.
Folau opted not to appeal against the tribunal ruling, voicing a lack of confidence in the process.
The Australian Financial Review said he had hired commercial law firm Macpherson Kelley to prepare a legal challenge, which was expected to be filed by the end of the week.
It would reportedly involve claims of breach of contract and unlawful termination under the Fair Work Act, which protects employees from being sacked because of their religion.
“We believe Rugby Australia and the (NSW) Waratahs have acted unfairly and unlawfully in their treatment of Israel,” Macpherson Kelley’s head of employment, George Haros, told the newspaper.
“Israel has several options available to him at this point, and we are considering his next steps.”
Folau’s post, which reflected sentiments from the Bible, sparked outrage from some quarters, but he won support from others for his right to express his religious beliefs.
“I was disappointed by the way Rugby Australia handled my hearing, and it has been difficult to read stories in the media that are simply untrue,” Super Rugby’s record try-scorer told the newspaper.
“All I ask is to be treated fairly and by the law. I feel confident in my team’s ability to defend and protect my legal rights.”
Rugby Australia insist his axing was purely a breach of contract issue.
“This is simply down to an employment matter where an employee signed a contract indicating that he would not disparage based on sexual grounds and he did that,” Rugby Australia chairman Cameron Clyne said this week, claiming other workplaces would have reacted the same way.
The case has already been referred to the Fair Work Ombudsman by a Liberal senator seeking a ruling on whether an employer can sack an employee for expressing their religious beliefs on social media outside the workplace.
The ombudsman has yet to decide whether to investigate.