Federal Court takes dim view of an unlawful conduct by employer: Warning to CSIRO
RMIT reinstates professor after court order
- by: Andrew Trounson
- From: The Australian
- June 14, 2013 12:00AM
RMIT UNIVERSITY has reinstated a professor, in line with a Federal Court order, after deciding not to appeal a judgement upholding claims she had been unfairly dismissed.
Judith Bessant, professor of sociology and youth studies, had been dismissed after raising various complaints against her supervisor, including bullying allegations. She was reinstated last Friday.
In a judgment last month, Federal Court Justice Peter Gray had warned that Professor Bessant could have been entitled to compensation of up to almost $2 million if she wasn’t reinstated after finding the university had breached the Fair Work Act.
“The University takes very seriously its obligations under the Fair Work Act and the university’s enterprise agreement. The university has decided not to appeal the decision,” RMIT chief operating officer and vice-president (resources), Steve Somogyi, told the HES.
In the trial RMIT had sought to argue that Professor Bessant had been dismissed for financial reasons.
But in what Justice Gray said was a “very serious” breach of workplace laws, he found that RMIT had unfairly made her redundant “at least partly because she was prepared to exercise her workplace rights by making complaints about the behaviour of her immediate supervisor”.
Professor Bessant said she expected to be initially in a research-only role, in line with an agreement reached with management prior to her dismissal in April last year. She said she was keen to eventually take on a research and teaching role.
In line with the earlier agreement, Professor Bessant has been given an office in a separate building from that housing her former supervisor, David Hayward, dean of the school of Global, Urban and Social Studies.
In his judgment Justice Gray noted that a 2010 RMIT investigation of Professor Bessant’s complaints against Professor Hayward had found that his conduct hadn’t amounted to bullying, but that he had been “confrontational”.