BARISTAS PURSUING DISCRIMINATION CASE

Ella and Lucy, baristas at Black Star Pastry, wore their keffiyehs to work as part of Keffiyeh Week, a national pro-Palestine campaign in January. Despite a positive reaction from some patrons of Chadstone, they received a call from HR to remove their keffiyehs. They complied and took them off. The next day, a senior staff member informed them that they were sacked.

They have now engaged community legal centre, Young Workers Centre, to take legal action against Black Star Pastry alleging breaches of the Equal Opportunity Act for loss of employment due to discrimination based on political belief or activity.

All workers should feel safe from discrimination at work. Under Victoria's Equal Opportunity Act 2010, it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of their political belief or political activity. Ella and Lucy were given termination letters which described the workers' wearing their keffiyehs as conduct that is "divisive and inflammatory to our customers and staff and goes against our [Black Star Pastry] vision to create a place of inclusivity" and that they had participated in a "deliberate and negligent act" that breached the company's uniform and social media policies. Lawyer Kelly Thomas spoke to The Age, saying "The link is irresistible. There’s a political belief, activity, it’s expressed. The next minute, they don’t have a job". 

On the day of the incident, a Chadstone patron posted a photo of them on X with the caption “Why are your staff at Chadstone wearing Palestinian terrorist headwear?" and tagged both Black Star Pastry and the Chadstone Shopping Centre official accounts. The ordeal has exacerbated Ella's existing mental illness and speaking to The Age, they say “I felt very paranoid but also very worried, concerned, anxious about who that was, where that came from, the spreading of that misinformation by someone I don’t know was very jarring. Not just jarring, but scary". Social media posts made about staff should be treated as an OHS issue in workplaces, especially where they equate workers with terrorism. 

Black Star Pastry has given a general statement saying "Black Star Pastry is committed to providing a safe, positive, and productive working environment where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. It respects the right of its employees to express their political views when not representing Black Star Pastry". 

The case is being pursued in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. 

 

Source: Young Workers CentreThe Age

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