Federal Court penalises Sydney publisher for sacking journalist

The Federal Circuit Court has fined a publisher after he threatened and later sacked a journalist who contacted the Fair Work Ombudsman for help.

Theodore Skalkos, the sole director of FL Press, has been ordered to pay $27,500 in penalties to his former employee, who worked at one his publications, the Serbian-language newspaper, Novosti.

The employee sought advice from the Fair Work Ombudsman and was later sacked

The employee, who had been working with Novosti for eight years, contacted the Fair Work Ombudsman for assistance in 2010 after his full time contract was converted to part time.

Following advice, the employee told Skalkos he had rights to redundancy for the full time position and payment in lieu of termination.

This week, the Court ruled Skalkos threatened not to pay the entitlements, unless he agreed to the change in working conditions. He also told the journalist he would be terminated if he did not complete his own duties as well as the duties of an editor on leave.

Judge Robert Cameron said Skalkos’ behaviour was “bullying”.

“It is important that employees be able to report matters to the Ombudsman without fear of the sort of threats of reprisal which [the employee] suffered and in which Mr Skalkos was personally involved,” Cameron said.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said behaviour like Skalkos’ undermined the workplace relations system.

“This legal action is a warning to all employers that we will not tolerate any intimidation of employees who exercise their rights. Workers should be aware that they are legally protected from any adverse action if they come to us,” Parker said.

The penalty comes three years after Judge Cameron ordered FL Press to pay $127,904 to workers for underpayments, which included redundancy entitlements and failure to make a payment in lieu of notice of termination, plus interest.

FL Press paid $5,000 of the amount, before being liquidated in 2016. Skalkos was not involved in underpayments.

Skalkos has previously declared bankruptcy, and been sued for defamation. He has also been convicted of failing to keep the shotgun and ammunition secure.


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