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4 lessons from the Israel Folau conflicting beliefs case

Social media amplifies discrimination issues to the extent that they can cross borders and pose difficult questions for employers. 

When combined with the global reach of a sports star like the Australian rugby international Israel Folau, who was sacked from Rugby Australia following an anti-gay Tweet, then the magnification of legal and moral dilemmas is clear for all to see. 
 
Last week, Folau launched a legal challenge against the decision on the basis of his fundamental right to freedom of expression as a Christian. He has argued that he is being discriminated against when in fact his own expressed Christian beliefs warrant protection.
 
A cursory look at Folau’s Twitter page reveals that he has 132,000 followers and his profile photo has the slogan “God First”. The majority of his posts are bible passages and dedications to his Christian faith. There is no doubt that he has strongly held and genuine Christian beliefs. 
 
His anti-gay slurs are well documented with his threat that “Hell awaits” the unrepentant. He has also posted a response to gender neutral discussions with the words “the devil has blinded so many people in this world” and made other comments that appear to be discriminatory on sexual orientation grounds.

Philosophical and conflicting beliefs is a growing and complex issue for HR and legal teams. Continue reading this article on the HR Magazine website (open access) where Jonathan Rennie considers how this case would be treated under the UK Equality Act and shares his top lessons for employers. 

You can read a complementary article on how this case would be considered under UK law, including broader considerations regarding vicarious liability, here

We discuss this and other similar cases in the 'Philosophical beliefs' episode of our podcast, Employment Law Focus. Subscribe now or listen online.  

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at June 2019. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms and conditions.

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