‘Landmark’ case sees FWC rule in favour of domestic violence victim

by Chloe Taylor27 Jul 2015
A Melbourne company has been ordered to pay compensation to a woman who was sacked after being allegedly abused by her partner in a ‘landmark’ case.

Leyla Moghimi was employed by the Eliana Construction and Developing Group, and was dismissed from her position because “keeping [them] both in the office was a no”.

The FWC ruled last week that the decision was unfair, harsh, unjust and unreasonable.

The Commission heard that Moghimi was hired in June last year after moving to Australia from Iran in 2013.

Following an incident between Moghimi and her partner in their home, a court issued an Intervention Order against her partner.

The order prohibited Moghimi’s partner from engaging in several actions, which included violence towards her, following her, contacting or communicating with her.

The magistrate who issued the order was informed that Moghimi and her partner had a common workplace, and the order was modified to require that the partner was not to “approach or remain within 3 metres” of Moghimi.

The FWC heard evidence that the director of the company told Moghini he could not “have them both working in the office in the same department” as he could not protect her from him.

He also suggested that she work from home, and told Moghini that he would not dismiss her partner.

Moghimi told the FWC that she was unable to work from home due to the Intervention Order, and suggested that her former partner should have been asked to work from home instead.

The director told the FWC that he “was not interested in personal issues however she continually maintained that she wanted her husband to lose his job”.

Moghimi alleged that in a meeting discussing her future with the company, the director said He had to terminate her employment “because it would not be safe or nice for the employment to continue”.

“It had been decided that either my employment or the employment of [her partner] had to be terminated, and that [her manager] had decided that it would be my employment that would be terminated,” she said.

The commissioner found that Moghimi’s dismissal was harsh and unjust, and ordered the company to pay her $27,000 compensation.

Zana Bytheway from Jobwatch – the group that represented the Moghimi – said that instead of following the court order, the company sacked her.

“The employer had an opportunity to see whether or not protecting the employment of both parties would work, but in this case chose to get rid of the victim of violence and retain the employment of the man,” she told ABC News.

She added that it was a landmark ruling.

“It makes a very important statement about the obligations and duties employers have in circumstances of domestic violence,” she said.

The case comes as the Fair Work Commission considers whether family violence victims should be entitled to extra leave.

Bytheway told ABC news that had these changes been implemented, Moghimi’s dismissal may have been prevented.

“She would have been able to organise herself and rearrange accordingly without the threat of ultimately being sacked,” she said.

Matt Garrett, manager of Relationships Australia NSW, previously spoke to HC about handling domestic violence within the workforce.

“It is not uncommon for partners to work in the same place, so it is important that confidentiality and a huge degree of sensitivity are maintained,” he said. “Quite often people who raise issues of domestic violence don’t get a good response from their organisation, so it is important to know, as an employer, how to handle this.”

“Employers should partner with NGOs and organisations such as the White Ribbonorganisation to develop a policy and education for their workplace,” advised Garrett.

“They should be alert to harassing or abusive phone calls and behaviour towards other staff members, which may help them to address such behaviour but not necessarily domestic violence.

“We believe employers have a responsibility to offer protection to the victim or the perpetrator.”

A manager for Eliana said the company would not be making any comment about the decision.
 
Related articles:
 
Domestic violence leave: addressing violence against women
Domestic violence: What if your employee is a perpetrator?
Domestic violence comes out of the darkness

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