Folau’s new legal hope
RUGBY union star Israel Folau may have a new legal avenue in his battle against being sacked by Rugby Australia.
The Australian reports that comments made by RA chairman Cameron Clyne about "sponsors" not being "willing to be associated with social media posts of that sort" could have opened a new legal avenue for Folau.
Following RA and Folau's failure to reach agreement in the Fair Work Commission last week, Mr Clyne said RA had no option but to sack the three-code football star.
"(The alternative) would be that we'd have no sponsors at all because no sponsor has indicated they would be willing to be associated with social media posts of that sort, and that includes government, because we've also heard from them," Mr Clyne said.
"We would also potentially be in litigation with employees who are gay and who would say we're not providing a workplace that is safe or respectful."
The Australian says that employment law specialist Sydney barrister Jeffrey Phillips QC believes RA could have breached its contract with Folau if it was influenced by sponsors to sack him.
"If it be the case that sponsors, or even the government, has placed any pressure on Rugby Australia to terminate his contract, then that raises prospects of interference with contractual relations and aspects of Australian competition and consumer law," he told The Australian.
"This is not too dissimilar to when renegade trade unions like the CFMEU placed pressure on employers not to engage with contractors who have non-union labour."
But Mr Clyne denied RA had been dictated to by main sponsor Qantas in the lead-up to Folau's termination.
"That's simply wrong," he said. "Sponsors have a right to associate themselves with a game they feel best represents their values, but it is absolute nonsense to suggest it was done at the behest of a sponsor. Having said that, I haven't had any sponsor come forward and say they were happy with the post or happy to be associated with it."
RA tore up Folau's $4 million contract in May over his Instagram posts, including one proclaiming hell awaits "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters".
A panel found that Folau was guilty of a "high-level breach" of the players' code of conduct.