A 29-year cleaner from Queensland, who was working for Ipswich City Council, west of Brisbane, is taking his now former employers to the Fair Work Commission, having claimed unfair dismissal on the basis of his sexuality.

James ‘Jimi’ Fuller- a former nurse who is openly gay, began working for the city council in November 2020 on a casual basis, but says it didn’t take long before he was subjected to abuse from his colleagues, claiming on one instance that he was called a “dirty fag”.

What’s more concerning about these accusations, is that Fuller alleges that it was his boss who started the ongoing abuse, after telling fellow cleaning staff of his sexuality.

“My supervisor went to another staff member and said ‘Jimi is a different kind of character, he is gay’,” Fuller said in an interview with 7news.

“At first I was shocked. Then I asked them if they’d said it. They said ‘yes I did’.”

‘Let’s Get Jimi The Sack’

Ipswich City Council Administrative building.

Immediately, Fuller says, there were consequences, claiming fellow staff members then refused to even be in the same room as him, adding that “(They) refused to work with me because I’m gay.”

But the abuse didn’t stop there, as messages sent within the work group chat allegedly announced “Let’s get Jimi the sack”.

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After being on the receiving end of abuse for several months, and on the urging of a fellow work mate, Fuller in March raised the matter with the council’s People and Culture team, but as Fuller recalls, “Ever since I reported (the comments), literally since that day, my life has been hell.”

On March 23, Jimi received a letter saying “a thorough investigation has now been completed by the People and Culture Branch, and following careful consideration of the findings, I am satisfied that your claims of bullying are unsubstantiated.”

Retract Complaint Or Lose Job

Letter from the Ipswich City Council

Despite Fuller having lodged a formal complaint with HR, it only resulted in the Council then asking Fuller to retract his statement.

“I was given an ultimatum to retract that claim otherwise I would lose my job,” he said.

“They told me not to bother to apply for the full-time job (when it came up).”

Several days later on April 9, Fuller was let go from this job via a letter, which claimed his work was ‘substandard’. Fuller rejected these claims pointing to a considerable number of written references relating to his cleaning work.

“Thorough consideration has now been given to the concerns raised from the internal clients regarding the standard of cleaning you provided, and your responses provided to (name redacted).”

“James, I wish to advise you that after careful consideration by your management team and myself it has been determined that you are not suitable for the role of Casual Cleaner at Ipswich City Council. In reaching this decision Council has taken into account the training you have received, your length of service and your performance,” Fuller’s redundancy letter read.

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Ipswich City Council then claimed that it all came down to a fingerprint smudge on a glass door and a muddy footprint on the ground at an art gallery he had been cleaning hours earlier.

“That’s a general building where people are walking through all day long. You can’t fire someone over that” Fuller said.

Fair Work Commission Accepts Complaint

After Fuller challenged his termination, Ipswich Council doubled down harder on their claims, confirming via another letter sent to Fuller on the 15th of April that “after review and consideration of these matters, I can confirm that it is the view of council that the complaint you raised whilst employed was investigated thoroughly, and the termination of your casual employment was managed appropriately and in accordance with council practices for these matters.”

The Fair Work Commission accepted Fuller’s claim last week, and Ipswich Council now has until Wednesday to respond to the complaint, which may then progress to a tribunal.

When approached by the media for comment, a representative for Ipswich Council said that “while council always seeks to be transparent, this is an ongoing legal matter and it would not be appropriate for council to make comment at this stage.”

 

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

 

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