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Single Mum Takes On Catholic Church In Unfair Dismissal Case

Single mum takes on Catholic Church in unfair dismissal case

A struggling single mother has won a confidential settlement from the Catholic Church after it sacked her in the lead up to Christmas, when she complained about bullying and inappropriate work practices.

The church was forced to pay compensation to the worker because it had taken unlawful adverse action against her when she exercised a workplace right by complaining about her working conditions.

The details

Rox Subramany was not only fired when she made the complaints, but she was also stripped her of her much-loved duties as a volunteer baptism coordinator by the church.

“Not only did they fire me weeks out from Christmas and leave me stranded without an income, there was not even as much as a phone call, from anyone, asking if I was okay,” she told Fairfax.

According to documents tended to the Fair Work Commission, Ms Subramany said that she was victim to two unprovoked “violent episodes” while working in the pastoral centre in the Diocese of Broken Bay.

It’s alleged that a co-worker screamed and swore aggressively at Ms Subramany’s face and “charged” at her with “clenched fists”.

“I was shaking and frightened,” she said.  “I felt unsafe. I thought I was going to be physically attacked.”

Bullying and dodgy work practices disclosed at meeting with parish priest

Ms Subramany complained about the bullying and also disclosed a series of “questionable” and “negligent” office practices in a meeting with the Ku-Ring-Gai parish priest, Father Shaju John.

According to Fairfax, the church failed in its lawful obligations to provide Ms Subramany with a signed contract of employment, and compulsory tax forms until six months into the job, and nor was she ever given a pay slip.

She outlined “misuse of parish funds”, and told how she was instructed to lie to an auditor, which she refused to do.

Seven days after the meeting, she received an email from Father Shaju, telling her that there would be “changes” to some services, adding, “there will no longer be any work for you.”

Church tried to have unfair dismissal case thrown out

Ms Subramany took her case to the Fair Work Commission, but the church tried to have the case thrown out, arguing that Ms Subramany was employed by the parish and not the diocese.

The parish employs less than 15 people and is therefore considered a small business and an employee cannot make a claim for unfair dismissal against a small business during their first 12 months of employment.

Ms Subramany wrote to Bishop Peter Comensoli telling him that the church was not treating her with “Christian values” and had failed to follow any sort of “professional, ethical or legal guidelines.”

He never responded, but the church eventually agreed to pay Ms Subramany a confidential settlement.

Church showed complete lack of compassion or morality

Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at Industrial Relations Claims, said the church had shown a complete lack of compassion or morality in its treatment of Ms Subramany.

“What a despicable thing to do – to sack a faithful loyal employee for doing the right thing by speaking out about bullying and questionable work practices,” he said.

“Of course the Catholic Church has plenty of form when it comes to cover ups and mistreating members of their own flock.

“In my view, Ms Subramany was not only unfairly dismissed, she was unlawfully dismissed, because an employer cannot sack an employee for raising a workplace issue like bullying.

“Unlike unfair dismissals, the payouts and penalties for unlawful dismissals are uncapped, so the church was probably lucky in this instance.”

Ms Subramany says despite what has happened, she hasn’t lost her faith.

“My case shows how the might of the Catholic Church will wield its power to deal with employees who fall foul of their system.  They told lies about me, intimidated me, denied everything and then attempted to buy my silence with a confidentiality clause,” she said.

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If you have been unfairly dismissed from employment, you may be eligible for compensation or reinstatement.

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