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Antoinette Lattouf has won part of her ABC unlawful dismissal case

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The ABC has lost part of its legal defence against journalist Antoinette Lattouf, who is suing for unfair dismissal.
The ABC has lost part of its legal defence against journalist Antoinette Lattouf.

The Fair Work Commission – Australia’s workplace dispute tribunal – has delivered a ruling in the case between journalist Antoinette Lattouf and the ABC.

Lattouf claims she was fired by the ABC during a short-term contract for sharing a social media post about Israel’s war in Gaza. The ABC said it didn’t dismiss Lattouf because it paid out her contract in full.

The FWC rejected this argument in a ruling on Monday, allowing Lattouf to pursue Federal Court action against the ABC. The journalist is seeking compensation for unlawful dismissal and an apology.

Background

Lattouf, who is Lebanese, is a broadcaster and author, who founded the not-for-profit Media Diversity Australia.

She was hired to host ABC Sydney radio from 18-22 December. However, she was dismissed on 20 December. Her contract was terminated after ABC management raised concern over a Human Rights Watch post she shared on social media.

The ABC said Lattouf was asked not to post about “matters of controversy”. It argued she breached the organisation’s social media policy.

Termination

Lattouf told the FWC that ABC management told her there had been “heaps of complaints from pro-Israel lobbyists” who were displeased about her role as a presenter.

Earlier this year, Nine newspapers published messages from a WhatsApp group named “Lawyers for Israel”, which appeared to show a coordinated effort to dismiss Lattouf from the ABC.

The ABC has rejected claims it was influenced by external pressure.

Fair Work case

Shortly after she was dismissed by the ABC, Lattouf filed a complaint in the Fair Work Commission.

There are two main allegations in Lattouf’s case:

  1. She was dismissed on 20 December, part way through her short-term work contract.
  2. She was dismissed based on her political opinion and race.

The ABC has rejected both arguments.

Today’s decision

The ABC argued that it did not technically dismiss Lattouf because she was still paid for the full five-day period of her contract. However, today’s ruling stated that she wasn’t told she would be paid in full at the time of dismissal.

The ABC contended that it was legally allowed to ask Lattouf to “politely leave” after breaching the broadcaster’s social media policy.

The FWC rejected the ABC’s arguments, saying Lattouf was dismissed. However, it did not reach a decision on whether Lattouf was unfairly dismissed.

Reaction

Lattouf said she was “pleased” with today’s decision. She added she was “committed to achieving a just outcome… for me and a fair press”.

Additionally, the industry union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), said the FWC’s decision was an “important step towards proving that Lattouf’s dismissal was unfair and unwarranted”.

TDA reached out to the ABC for comment but didn’t receive a response at the time of publishing this story.

What now?

Lattouf’s lawyer, Josh Bornstein, said today’s decision will mean she can proceed with her Federal Court case against the ABC.

The journalist is seeking compensation for harm to her reputation, distress, and humiliation, as well as an apology from the ABC.

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