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Legal Fight Over Thorburn’s Exit

By Alan J. McDonald

Legal Fight Over Thorburn’s Exit

The report in The Australian newspaper about Andrew Thorburn’s dispute with the Essendon Football Club, even though Thorburn resigned, demonstrates the inroads that employment law has made into businesses and sporting clubs.

Thorburn will claim that the protection provided by the Fair Work Act allows him the right not be discriminated against because of his religious beliefs. Whether he wins or loses the argument, there is a genuine need to debate the issue of corporate and sporting club values.

It is desirable that there be no conflict in workplaces between individuals who have different religious or political beliefs. In days past it was common sense that in “polite company” you did not discuss religion and politics. Why should that not be the case in the workplace? Why should companies or sporting clubs allow religion and politics to decide who they will employ? Surely, the best person should be chosen by way of experience and skill, not religious beliefs. However it appears many companies and sporting clubs are more interested in discriminating in favour of persons whose religious or possibly political opinions they prefer. What are the shareholders or members to think?

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