‘Church’ defends decision to fire worker who received COVID jab

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She also challenged the description of her as a subcontractor rather than an employee entitled to protection against unfair dismissal.

Ms. Chait seeks damages equivalent to approximately three months’ salary, plus pension arrears and other entitlements unpaid during her employment.

Lainie Chait’s attorney, Mark Swivel, said the decision to terminate his employment due to his vaccination was “inherently unfair”. Credit:Elise derwin

The unfair dismissal complaint comes amid a parliamentary inquiry into the federal government’s religious discrimination bill, which opponents fear will lead to discrimination in the workplace.

The Anglican Diocese of Sydney said in an inquiry submission that a gay teacher in Sydney was not fired in January 2021 because of his sexuality, but because she believed Christians should be able to form relationships homosexuals.

Debate over the religious discrimination bill often fails to recognize that religious institutions are already allowed to make discriminatory hiring and firing decisions as long as they are motivated by their religious beliefs, according to Joellen Riley Munton, professor at the Sydney University of Technology Law School.

Professor Munton said religions do not have to prove their reasons to be valid according to some measure of objective rationality.

“They just need to establish that they made their decision in good faith, to avoid” harming the religious sensibilities of followers of this religion or belief, “” she said.

Ms Chait’s attorney, Mark Swivel, said the decision to terminate her employment due to the vaccination was “inherently unfair”.

“There is nothing in the decision to vaccinate an employee that relates to their performance or suitability for the job for which they were hired,” he said.

A spokesperson for the church said the religious organization did not believe they had any pretension to defend themselves as Ms. Chait “has never been an employee and they are considering the whole affair around the [church] and [wellness clinic] a sort of media ruse ”.

He said the church was “pro-choice, not anti-vax.”

The church’s website said it was carrying on “the Ubuntu tradition as taught by Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.”

Archbishop Tutu received the COVID jab in one of his last public appearances before his death last week.

Church spokesperson said Archbishop Tutu was a great man who did a great job, but the church was “in no way limited by him or his personal views regarding COVID-19 “.

“Ubuntu’s philosophy is much bigger than that,” he said. “Sadly, many great religious leaders and religious organizations unfortunately do not live up to their original teachings regarding COVID-19 inoculations. “

Mr Swivel said there was nothing specifically religious about the health-related decision to get the vaccine.

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“There is no specific prohibition of vaccination in the doctrine of the employers’ organization, only a very broad invocation of ‘nature’ and the Church can argue that vaccination is’ against ‘this general principle “, did he declare.

Even though the church had more leeway than other employers because of its religious nature, Mr Swivel said it was difficult to see the Fair Work Commission decide it was reasonable to fire Ms Chait because of her jab COVID-19.

A spokesperson for the Federal Attorney General’s Department declined to comment as the case is before the FWC.

Professor Riley Munton said it was surprising that a church could claim that its belief system includes a ban on vaccination.

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“It’s really a matter of opinion whether other religious beliefs are rational or not,” she said. “Is the belief that a person should not be divorced so rational as to justify terminating the employment of a school principal?” “

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