Israel Folau has launched an unfair dismissal claim against Rugby Australia and the Waratahs after the star had his multi-million dollar contract torn up last month.
Lawyers for the 30-year-old lodged the claim with the Fair Work Commission today, a statement revealing they will argue Folau’s contract was “unlawfully terminated because of his religion” under section 772 of the Fair Work Act.
The Australian is reporting Folau is seeking up to $10 million in damages.
In the statement, the fullback said he felt his sacking was unfair and left him with no choice but to pursue his legal options.
“I will be forever grateful and proud to have played a sport that I love for our nation,” Folau said.
“Ours is an amazing country built on important principles including freedom of religion. A nation made up of so many different faiths and backgrounds will never be truly rich unless this freedom applies to all of us.
“The messages of support we have received over these difficult weeks has made me realise there are many Australians who believe their fundamental rights are being steadily eroded.
“No Australian of any faith should be fired for practising their religion.”
Rugby Australia, however, have argued Folau’s sacking was not due to his religion, but was instead due to him breaking the professional players’ code of conduct.
Folau’s contract was terminated after an independent three-person judicial panel ruled he had committed a high-level code of conduct breach with an April 10 Instagram post claiming gay people, amongst others, are destined for hell.
It was not the first time Folau had courted controversy for his social media activity – he was heavily criticised last year for a number of anti-gay posts in early 2018.
Folau opted against appealing the panel’s ruling last month, claiming he had no confidence in being treated fairly by Rugby AU’s process.
Earlier today, it was revealed Folau’s brother, John, had been granted a release from the Waratahs, a development directly related to Israel’s sacking.
“We gave John some time off for leave and he has come back to us recently and asked for a release, which we’re happy to grant,” New South Wales coach Daryl Gibson said.
“John has been in a difficult position for the last wee while. He has got really divided loyalties to his family and his brother and then also to the team.
“He wanted to stress how much he enjoyed being with the team and what a difficult decision it was for him.”
John Folau was in his first year with the side, having formerly played with the Parramatta Eels in the NRL.