Rugby Australia’s social media blunder in contract


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Rugby Australia bungled its contract negotiations with Israel Folau by failing to insert social media restraints, according to a report.

The Daily Telegraph says Folau, who inked a $4 million four-year deal last year, refused to have the additional clauses retrospectively inserted into the contract.

If this is so, it will place added pressure on RA CEO Raelene Castle, whose tenure has turned into a giant headache because of Folau’s inflammatory social media posts.

Today looms as D-Day for the much-maligned Wallabies star – he has until this afternoon to lodge notice that he will fight the termination of his RA contract.

RA believe they are still on safe ground, because they will argue the Wallaby star breached the standard player code of conduct by vilifying others because of their sexuality.

The Telegraph labelled the contract situation as a “bungle” which could leave RA facing action under workplace anti-discrimination requirements.

Folau’s latest social media outburst quoted Bible scripture saying hell awaited people such as gays and atheists.

Folau’s defence will be based around him being punished for expressing his religion’s beliefs. The report says the lack of social media clauses are central to his defence.

But he would appear to still be facing a major battle.

The NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (Section 49ZT) states: “It is unlawful for a person, by a public act, to incite hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of, a person or group of persons on the ground of the homosexuality of the person or members of the group”.

A spokeswoman for The Workplace Employment Lawyers said RA can argue that Folau breached his contract by going against legally correct direction RA gave him.

“‘Free speech’ in the workplace is qualified by employee’s obligations under their contract. In this case, it appears that Folau was told about RA’s policies and its expectations in relation to his conduct,” she said.

“Given the history, and as Folau is a public figure, RA is likely to have grounds for taking disciplinary action which may include termination of his contract.”

She added: “The NSW Anti-Discrimination Act protects against a ‘public act’ which amounts to vilification.

“We are not aware of any case law considering vilification in the context of argued religious expression in the workplace.

“However, recent cases show that vilification via social media is being considered by the courts.”

FOLAU’S HEARING COULD BE DELAYED

Folau may have to wait a while for a code of conduct hearing, if he decides on that option on Wednesday, rather than accept the termination of his contract.

Rugby Australia on Monday served the Test and NSW Waratahs back with a breach notice over his posts on social media platformslast week.

The RA Integrity Unit deemed that Folau had committed a high-level breach of the Professional Players’ Code of Conduct warranting termination of his employment contract.

Folau, who signed a new four-year contract back in February, was given 48 hours to accept the sanction or have the matter referred to to a Code of Conduct hearing,.

If Folau accepts the sanction by the deadline of Wednesday 2pm (AEST) he would leave without getting a payout.

It’s considered more likely he will choose the other option, though he has stated he is prepared to walk away from the game for the sake of his faith.

Given there are Easter public holidays on Friday and next Monday and Anzac Day next Thursday, it’s highly unlikely any hearing would be conducted until the following week.

The hearing process would involve a panel of three, a representative of RA, a representative of the players’ union RUPA and an independent person approved by both organisations, who would be the chair.

The religiously-motivated Folau posted: “Warning. Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators. Hell awaits you. Repent! Only Jesus saves.”

RA chief executive officer Raelene Castle has stressed the action taken against Folau is about the issue of the responsibilities an employee owes to their employer rather than punishment for his religious beliefs.

Castle said Folau was warned formally and repeatedly last year about the expectation of him as a Wallabies and Waratahs player in regards to his social media use, following some previous controversial posts, and asserts the gifted back has failed to meet those obligations.

— NZ Herald, AAP




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