A cleaner claims the Ipswich City Council sacked him for making a complaint against co-workers for bullying and homophobic harassment.
The Council told him his services were “no longer required” just two weeks after he reported the alleged abuse.
Cleaner sacked for complaining about homophobic harassment
James ‘Jimi’ Fuller said the abuse started from the time he commenced employment with the council as a casual cleaner last October.
He said the trouble began when a supervisor publicly announced his sexuality to several colleagues.
He said one co-worker called him a “dirty f*g”, while others subsequently refused to work with him.
Fuller additionally alleged that on a text message group chat, a co-worker suggested, “Let’s get Jimi the sack”.
Following an investigation the council’s HR department told Fuller that his bullying claims were “unsubstantiated”.
Fuller alleges he was then asked to withdraw his complaint.
Following the investigation, Fuller said management reprimanded him for a muddy footprint and finger marks on a glass door at the Ipswich Art Gallery hours after he’d cleaned it.
He denies his work is substandard and says the council used it to justify his dismissal in 9 April.
He told the Queensland Times:
“I do my job to the highest standard.
“I’ve got about 20 [references] from all the buildings that I cleaned which stated what a great cleaner I am.
“I said, you’re dismissing me over a fingerprint that was on a glass door … three-and-a-half hours after the building opened to the public.”
Making the right claim
The Brisbane Times reports that Fuller has filed an unfair dismissal claim in the Fair Work Commission.
However, employment law expert Miles Heffernan says he has other options, for example, a general protections claim.
“Workers sacked for making a complaint about their working conditions are eligible to file a general protections dismissal claim,” he said.
“The advantage of making a GPD claim, as opposed to an unfair dismissal claim, is that the compensation awarded is usually higher.
“In addition, courts can impose penalties on the employer, which are uncapped.”
Mr Heffernan says Fuller can also file a discrimination claim in the Queensland Human Rights Commission.
“It is unlawful to treat someone less favourably in employment because of a protected attribute, such as sexual orientation,” he said.
Council refuses to comment
The Ipswich City Council refused to comment on the case.
“While council always seeks to be transparent, this is an ongoing legal matter,” a spokesperson said.
“It would not be appropriate for council to make comment at this stage.”
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