Teal MP Monique Ryan taken to court by staffer Sally Rugg over alleged workplace law breach

<span>Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP</span>
Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

The independent federal MP Monique Ryan is being sued for an alleged breach of workplace laws by her staffer Sally Rugg.

Rugg, an activist and former GetUp campaign director, filed a case against Ryan in the federal court on 25 January, alleging a breach of the Fair Work Act’s “general protections” provisions.

Guardian Australia understands workload and long hours have been an issue in Rugg’s role for Ryan.

Rugg is represented by the law firm Maurice Blackburn in a case listing Ryan and the commonwealth of Australia as respondents, represented by Sparke Helmore.

The case, filed in the Victorian registry of the federal court, will go for an interlocutory hearing before justice Debra Mortimer on 3 February. The case was due for a first hearing on Monday, but it was vacated.

Due to new federal court rules restricting the release of documents until the first hearing, Rugg’s application is not yet available.

The rules, enacted to prevent prejudice against respondents, have drawn criticism from the media union and journalists for suppressing reporting of allegations made in court filings.

The Fair Work Act’s general protections include prohibiting unfair dismissal and adverse action against an employee for exercising a workplace right.

Despite initial media reports referring to Rugg as Ryan’s “former” staffer, Guardian Australia understands she is still employed by the member for Kooyong.

The case may renew scrutiny on the Albanese government’s decision in June to cut crossbench MPs’ staffing allocation from eight to five people.

The crossbench protested against the cut, citing the Jenkins report that found “long and irregular hours of work” as a risk factor of working as a political staffer in parliament house.

Rugg is a Melbourne-based LGBTQ+ activist and feminist who played a leading role in the yes campaign during the marriage equality vote in her former position at GetUp, before working as the executive director of

Ryan was elected in 2022, ousting the then deputy Liberal leader and treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, from his blue-ribbon inner-Melbourne seat.

In July Rugg told the Sydney Morning Herald that she was drawn to Ryan after watching her debate Frydenberg during 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,” Rugg reportedly said.

Ryan, and spokespeople for Maurice Blackburn and Sparke Helmore declined to comment. Guardian Australia contacted Rugg for comment.