Last week we saw an employer hit the headlines for sacking an employee over her view that it’s ok to vote ‘no’ in the same sex marriage plebiscite.
Madlin Sims, a party entertainer in Canberra terminated a contractor for what she believes to be hate speech likening it to racism. According to Ms Sims such hate speech is bad for business, does not align to her morals and is homophobic in her eyes. She also went on to say, “freedom of speech and hate speech are very different things”.
On the other side of the argument the contractor, identified only as Madeline, has defended her right to express that its ok to vote ‘no’ on her Facebook page. Madeline spoke on the Andrew Bolt report saying, “This is a democracy and we were given the options and asked as Australians to vote yes or no and it’s my opinion to vote no”. Madeline believes she should not have been sacked for having an opinion that someone else disagrees with.
While we all have different opinions on the SSM topic the question is, was Ms Sims within her rights to terminate Madeline’s employment based on the above?
It’s still quite a grey area and the Fair Work Ombudsman are currently investigating the case.
What we do know…….
Madeline is a contractor and not a direct employee of Ms Sims. Therefore, she is not covered by unfair dismissal laws. The termination also took place in Canberra and as such Madeline is protected by “The Discrimination Act” of the ACT that apples not only to employees but also contractors preventing them from being discriminated against because they have expressed political opinions.
If Madeline’s Facebook account linked her to her employer then Ms Sims may have some grounds to request her to stop partaking in political crusading. Unless there is a very clear connection between her Facebook account and her workplace it’s unlawful to terminate an employee or treat them unfavourably under the General Protections provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009.
I think we will be seeing more of this case in the headlines again as developments unfold.
Written by resident HR Guru Natalie Bol