Israel Folau has accused one of the tribunal members who ruled against him of bias because of her LGBTIQ advocacy work.
The devout Christian former rugby player is suing Rugby Australia and Rugby NSW for unlawful termination under laws preventing sackings because of a person’s religion.
Folau’s lawyers lodged more documents with the Federal Circuit Court on Thursday.
In the documents, Folau takes aim at Sydney barrister Kate Eastman SC, one of the members of the independent tribunal that found he had breached his contract over his social media posts about gay and transgender people.
Folau is arguing Eastman failed to disclose she was part of various committees and groups “that advocated for the LGBTI community,” the Daily Telegraph reported. Eastman had also acted for Rugby Australia in the past, the documents state.
He argues Eastman was co-founder and a member of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, which advocates for LGBTI rights. Eastman also chaired the Law Council of Australia’s Equal Opportunity Committee, and two other diversity committees at prominent legal associations. All advocated for the LGBTI community, Folau argues.
Folau argues Eastman should have recused herself from the tribunal. But instead, she heard the application by his lawyers to stand down and decided herself that she should remain.
“Rather than accept Mr Folau’s concern and appoint another legal practitioner (or, indeed, any other person) to replace Ms Eastman SC, Rugby Australia opposed Mr Folau’s application and made submissions to Ms Eastman SC so as to ensure that she did not accede to the Recusal Application,” the document claims.
Rugby Australia said in court documents three respected individuals were on the tribunal. They were senior barristers Eastman and John West QC; and experienced sports administrator John Boultbee.
Israel Folau says he didn’t agree to social media rules
Israel Folau also insists he never agreed to limitations on his social media use last year.
“Rugby Australia attempted to have Mr Folau ‘agree and acknowledge’ … limitations on his ability to use social media… but he did not do so,” the documents state.
He claims in a meeting with RA CEO Raelene Castle he “told [her] that he appreciated where she was coming from, but that he had a right to express his religious beliefs about what was in the Bible.”
Folau also denies claims Castle warned him of “significant consequences” if there was another incident.
Rugby Australia argues Israel Folau admitted code of conduct breach
However earlier, Rugby Australia claimed Folau admitted he had breached the RA Code of Conduct with the posts.
RA claimed Folau refused to take down the Instagram post but offered to let the sporting body vet future posts.
They said Folau’s expressions of faith had always been supported “provided these were done in a respectful and inclusive manner”.
“Rugby Australia’s objection to the posts at issue was not their religious content but rather their tone and attributes,” RA stated in court documents.
Folau has previously said his sacking places an “unreasonable restraint” on his ability to play the game. He is demanding his job back, an apology from Rugby Australia and up to $10 million in compensation.
The unlawful termination case is due for a mediation hearing in December. If unsuccessful, a trial will be held in the new year.
Israel Folau and Rugby Australia failed to reach an agreement at a Fair Work hearing in June.
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