It is sometimes forgotten that sporting clubs and organisations are employers who are also subject to workplace laws and regulations in relation to their employees.
In a stark reminder that sporting clubs and organisations are not exempt from the rules, the former team manager of Western United has commenced proceedings in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, alleging that the head coach of the A-League club bullied him and caused him to develop a mental illness.
The team manager is claiming that the club breached the general protections provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (the FW Act) by taking adverse action against him on the basis of protected attributes or because he exercised a workplace right to make a complaint.
Specifically, the team manager has alleged that he was bullied by the head coach on a number of occasions between July and November 2019 before his resignation in December 2019. The allegations include:
- he was yelled at, cursed at and abused by the head coach; and
- he was made to perform work outside the scope of his role, such as washing the head coach’s soiled clothes and bed sheets, and running personal errands for the head coach.
The team manager has also claimed that he made a number of complaints about his employment, including his concerns about his role, hours and the treatment he received from the head coach. It is claimed that the head coach confronted him and told him he was not entitled to question his management skills.
The team manager is seeking $110,000 in compensation for lost past and future income and a further $20,000 for pain and suffering. Pecuniary penalties are also being sought.
The club is yet to file a defence, however, it has publicly indicated that it denies the claim and has noted that the employee resigned from his employment.
It is important to note that dismissal is not an essential requirement of an adverse action claim. Adverse action can take the form of any conduct by an employer that injures the employee in their employment, alters the employee’s position to their prejudice, or discriminates between the employee and others in the workplace.
It will be interesting to see how this matter unfolds and in particular, the specific allegations of adverse action alleged against the club.
Regardless of the outcome, sporting clubs and organisations should be aware that the general protections provisions of the FW Act will apply to them and their employees.
We will keep you updated as the matter progresses.
>Information provided in this blog is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Workplace Law does not accept liability for any loss or damage arising from reliance on the content of this blog.
Shane Koelmeyer is a leading workplace relations lawyer and Director at Workplace Law. Workplace Law is a specialist law firm providing employers with legal advice, training and representation in all aspects of workplace relations, employment-related matters and WH&S.
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