A Victorian man is suing his former workplace over alleged homophobic abuse that he claims has left him incapacitated by trauma.
Timothy Bye first made a legal complaint to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in 2017 after the alleged near-daily harassment from management culminated in his being fired from Barkers Fresh Produce in Epping.
Bye said that a senior manager was openly homophobic and would make violent comments such as “faggots don’t deserve to live”.
While he had previously liked his workplace, he said the environment changed when that manager joined the team.
“It turned into a horrible place to be,” said Bye.
“It started off with him coming into the office every morning and saying ‘Good morning, ladies’, and then he would greet all of the other men in the office by name.
“Once I overheard him talking to someone about all his disgusting views about homosexuals.
“That’s when I completely retreated as a person.
“There was nothing left of me, and I would have to put on a smile and be a nice person in the workplace, after the company failed to protect me and keep me safe from someone like him.
“It turned into a living hell for me because naturally I’m a very happy, bubbly person.
“I was dehumanised and made to feel like there was someone in the office who would rather have me in a coffin than sitting at my desk.”
Bye eventually took three weeks off work for a break from the homophobic environment.
On his return, he said he had been replaced in his role, and he was soon fired for being “too social”.
Bye remains out of work and is being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.
After his Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal complaint was dismissed last year, he is now suing his former employer to the state Magistrate’s Court, seeking compensation for his trauma and lost ability to work.
The company behind Barkers Fresh Produce last month admitted some of the allegations to the court, while denying others.
It has claimed that Bye is not entitled to the compensation he is seeking.
As the case continues with a hearing set for June, Bye said he wants to bring attention to workplace abuse and its mental health consequences.
“I am trying to change how these matters are dealt with in Australia,” he said.
Lawyer Adam Lopez of Lennon Lawyers said that he had immediately wanted to help Bye on hearing about the case, and the firm is representing him on a no win–no fee basis.
“Nobody should be treated that way,” said Lopez.
“To make matters worse, Timothy was in financial dire straits, having been unable to return to work in any capacity since his employment was terminated by Barkers.
“I am hopeful that this process will be engaged in in a meaningful way that acknowledges Timothy’s workplace and other rights, including equality before the law.
“To quote the eminent retired High Court Judge Michael Kirby, also a prominent LGBTIQ advocate, ‘The law can be a guardian and a protector’.”
Update: Bye has established an online crowdfund to assist with his expenses while he is unable to work.
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