Teal independent Dr Monique Ryan is facing Federal Court action by her chief of staff Sally Rugg over an alleged breach of workplace law.
Ryan recruited Rugg – a marriage equality activist and former executive director of Change.org – in July last year after her federal election victory over former Liberal treasurer Josh Frydenberg in the seat of Kooyong.
The pair were drawn together over shared values including climate action and political integrity, with Rugg celebrating her new role on social media in July and August by tweeting “Best first-week-of-a-new-job ever” and “I love my new job so much omg”.
However, just six months later, on January 25, Rugg lodged a court application against her boss, alleging a breach of general protections under the Fair Work Act, as first reported in .
The Commonwealth is also listed as a respondent in the matter.
Ryan declined to comment, saying she had been advised against it by her lawyers. A spokesperson for Sparke Helmore, the law firm representing Ryan, said it was unable to comment as the matter was before the courts.
Rugg’s lawyers, from the firm Maurice Blackburn, also declined to comment, but confirmed she was still employed by Ryan.
An interlocutory hearing before judge Debra Mortimer has been set down for 10.15am on Friday.
Rugg played a key role in the marriage equality debate as a campaign director for GetUp between 2013 and 2018. She has also been a key advocate for a royal commission into Rupert Murdoch’s media empire in Australia, alongside former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd.
After her recruitment, Rugg told this masthead’s column she had been drawn to Ryan since her performance in a town hall debate against Frydenberg midway through the election campaign.
“What drew me to Monique was obviously the policy priorities – climate change, gender equity, integrity and transparency in politics – but also her approach as a grassroots, community-connected independent,” she said.
In July, Ryan described Rugg as an “outstanding all-rounder with excellent leadership experience, a proven track record of effective policy advocacy, and high-level strategic communications skills”.
She lauded Rugg’s experience as a political strategist, including supporting the Home to Bilo campaign to return a family of asylum seekers to the Queensland town of Biloela, women’s safety in Parliament House, and ABC funding.
“In addition, Sally has good relations with members of the major parties on both sides of the chamber,” Ryan wrote.
Writing in Schwartz Media’s , University of Canberra political expert academic Chris Wallace on Saturday foreshadowed Rugg’s exit from Ryan’s office.
“Rugg, an experienced activist, proved not quite a comfortable fit with Kooyong and is not continuing as Monique Ryan’s chief of staff,” Wallace wrote.
A previous version of this story referred to Rugg as a former employee of Ryan. She is still employed by Ryan.
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