A former high-profile multicultural leader and writer has argued that pleading guilty to child sex abuse was no reason for him to lose his job.
Joseph Wakim was sentenced to 20 months' jail in July for sexually penetrating a 13-year-old boy in the child's bedroom in Melbourne early on Boxing Day morning 2015.
Wakim, who was a church leader, a highly respected member of the Arab community, and a Fairfax Media columnist and author who received the Order of Australia for his work addressing racism, pleaded guilty to the abuse in Melbourne Magistrates Court on April 1.
The Fair Work Commission has heard that it wasn't until April 5 that Wakim's bosses at Bluestar Global Logistics had the "head exploding moment" of learning about their national sales and marketing manager's crime from a media report.
Before then, Wakim had led his employer to believe he needed time off work because of a "traumatic incident" that had come to involve police, the commission heard.
Bluestar ordered Wakim to stay home from work until further notice, which he protested, arguing that he had "been punished enough". The company fired him on May 4 and Wakim launched unfair dismissal proceedings the next day.
Appearing before the commission via video-link from the Hopkins Correctional Centre in Victoria last month, Wakim said there was no valid reason for his dismissal. He argued he was denied procedural fairness and sought 26 weeks' pay in compensation.
Victim of his own crime
Despite describing his "guilt, shame, remorse, disgust" and disbelief over his crime during his trial, Wakim told the commission the sexual abuse was "non-deliberate", and therefore did not breach the company's code of conduct requiring that employees not "deliberately" do anything that would bring Bluestar into disrepute.
Fair Work Commission vice-president Adam Hatcher rejected this, saying that Wakim had intentionally tried to hide the facts of his crime from Bluestar, and pointing out that Wakim had pleaded guilty to it in court.
"It might be thought surprising that Mr Wakim advanced this submission given the emphasis he sought to place upon his remorse and acceptance of responsibility for his crime," Mr Hatcher said.
"But Mr Wakim appears simultaneously to have convinced himself that he is a victim of his own crime."
Mr Hatcher found the sacking was fair and dismissed Wakim's application.