Former employee files Fair Work claim over Frances Abbott’s scholarship investigation

Former employee files Fair Work claim over Frances Abbott’s scholarship investigation

A former employee of the Whitehouse Institute of Design has filed a legal claim following the fallout over the award of a scholarship to the Prime Minister’s daughter.

The ex-employee of the school was the subject of an internal investigation after media reports Frances Abbott was awarded a $60,000 ‘chairman’s scholarship’ to the school.

The school is now the subject of an adverse action claim in the Fair Work Commission.   

SmartCompany understands a confidential hearing will be held to attempt to resolve the claim.

Fairfax reports the former employee was subject to an internal disciplinary review and resigned before that review was complete.

“The Whitehouse Institute is confident that the adverse action case is without merit and has no prospect of success,” Ian Tudor, head of the Whitehouse Institute, told the media organisation.

Tudor told SmartCompany in a statement the institute is “confident that the adverse action case is without merit and has no prospect of success”. 

“The former employee concerned was subject to an internal disciplinary review and resigned before that review was complete. Given that the matter is currently before the Fair Work Commission, we will be making no further comment,” Tudor said in the statement.

Workplace law expert Peter Vitale told SmartCompany it is most likely the former employee’s claim is based on the way the disciplinary review was carried out.

“But in respect of the leak itself it is difficult to see how an adverse action claim could arise out of that,” he says. 

Vitale says to establish an adverse action claim the adverse action must have been engaged in for a prohibited purpose. 

“Identifying the prohibited purpose is the tricky part,” he says.

Vitale says the reason the former employee may have chosen to pursue an adverse action claim is because the onus of proof shifts to the employer and it is up to the employer to prove the adverse action was not taken for the reasons alleged.

“This makes it a more effective negotiating position than an unfair dismissal claim,” he says.

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