Northland shopping centre retailer fined
The Federal Court has penalised operators of a number of building and construction clothing retail outlets, Bad Workwear, close to $40,000 and forced them to backpay $56,850 for the mistreatment of a junior employee over a two year period.
According to its website, Bad Workwear has three retail stores in Victoria including Northland Shopping Centre, Epping Plaza, and Westfield Fountain Gate, as well as a clearance outlet and Workwear Warehouse in North Geelong.
The teenage sales assistant was underpaid more than $56,000, and failed to provide sufficient meal, rest, and toilet breaks.
It was found that due to being underpaid, the employee was unable to support herself financially and forced to rely on others to make ends meet.
The employee was underpaid $56,850 between May, 2010 and November, 2012. She worked mainly at the Northland Shopping Centre outlet at Preston owned by Fardin and Beverly Soleimani.
She was aged 18 to 20 at the time and worked as a junior sales person for several months before being promoted to store manager.
The underpayments were the result of the employee being paid flat hourly rates ranging from $10 to $16 for all hours worked – despite regularly working more than 50 hours a week, including 12 hour shifts.
The payments were below the minimum hourly rate and led to underpayment of penalty rates for weekend, evening, public holiday, and overtime work.
The employee’s laundry allowance, annual leave entitlements, and superannuation entitlements were also underpaid. Record keeping and payslip obligations were also contravened.
Judge, Suzanne Jones, found that the employee was underpaid more than 40 per cent of her total entitlements.
Jude Jones referred to the employee’s evidence that a lack of meal breaks made it difficult for her to eat or rest properly, or indeed visit the toilet.
“She says that the respondents’ conduct contributed to financial difficulties for her, undermining her ability to support herself and forcing her to rely on others to make ends meet,” Judge Jones said.
The Court found that penalties should be imposed at a meaningful level to deter employers in the retail industry from committing similar contraventions and “leave them in no doubt as to the consequences should this occur”.
Judge Jones was particularly critical of the Soleimanis’ failure to keep proper records and issue payslips, saying it was “demonstrative of a serious disregard for their obligations”.
The Fair Work Ombudsman commenced an investigation into the matter after receiving a complaint from the employee.
The employee was back paid her outstanding entitlements only after the Fair Work Ombudsman commenced its legal action.
Fair Work Ombudsman, Natalie James, says the Court’s decision sends a clear message to employers that exploitation of young, vulnerable employees will not be tolerated.
“Successful litigations such as this also benefit employers who are complying with workplace laws, because it helps them to compete on a level playing field,” she said.
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