Wallabies superstar Israel Folau has requested a code of conduct hearing over his breach notice from Rugby Australia (RA) as his multi-million dollar contract hangs in the balance.
Unless successful at the hearing, Folau faces the sack after being issued with a “high-level” breach notice over controversial social media posts he made on April 10.
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Folau, who signed a new four-year $4 million contract back in February, was given 48 hours to accept the sanction or have the matter referred to a Code of Conduct hearing.
If Folau had accepted the sanction, he would have left the code without getting a payout.
“Israel has responded formally today to request a code of conduct hearing which, under the circumstances, was not an unexpected outcome,” said RA CEO Raelene Castle.
“We will now work to confirm a date for the hearing as soon as possible.”
Given there are Easter public holidays on Friday and next Monday then Anzac Day next Thursday, it seems unlikely the hearing will be conducted until the following week.
The hearing process will 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 attracted a fresh storm of controversy when he posted on Instagram: “Warning. Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators. Hell awaits you. Repent! Only Jesus saves.”
Rugby Australia says that public stance goes against their policy of inclusion.
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 similar controversial posts.
She has stressed the action taken against Folau is about the issue of responsibilities an employee owes to their employer rather than punishment for his religious beliefs.
It was previously believed that RA had inserted some sort of clause into Folau’s recently-renewed contract that prohibited him from posting his controversial religious beliefs on social media.
But in a startling twist, The Daily Telegraph is reporting that never happened.
The new report claims RA tried and failed to have a social media provision inserted into the contract, only after the Wallabies star signed it.
But Folau refused because the deal had been done, and the contract remained a standard one.
RA will instead reportedly argue that Folau breached his code of conduct by vilifying people based on their sexuality, with the Telegraph quoting lawyers who believe employees will be able to sue should he avoid being sacked.
“If one employee is in the workplace engaging in behaviour which is vilifying another worker based on sexual orientation, that could be in breach of the Equal Opportunity Act or the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act,” said Kamal Farouque of Maurice Blackburn.
“They could take action against Rugby Australia as their employer under vicarious liability for the conduct of the employee, or they could take action against the individual Folau.”
Rugby Australia on Monday served the Test and NSW Waratahs back with a breach notice over his posts on social media platforms last 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.