A Melbourne childcare operator who repeatedly underpaid her employees has been fined $85,000 and told she will be charged with contempt of court and face jail time if she does it again.
Federal Circuit Court judge Philip Burchardt imposed the hefty penalty on Vivien Mahomet, and ordered an injunction restraining her from underpaying childcare workers in the future, after she was caught for a second time engaging in wage theft.
Ms Mahomet, who operates three child care centres called ‘Academy for Kids’, underpaid two employees who worked in her Glen Waverley centre $14,341 between September 2013 and December 2015.
She also didn’t pay the workers’ annual leave and shift allowances.
The underpayments occurred even though Ms Mahomet received $6,000 in Commonwealth wage subsidies for employing them.
Second time employer has been caught stealing wages
It’s the second time the child care operator has been caught out stealing from her employees.
In 2014, Ms Mahomet was penalised $19,980 for underpaying five other childcare workers more than $16,000.
Underpayments represented ‘a lot of money’ for the workers
Handing down the latest $85,000 penalty, Judge Burchardt said he needed to impose a penalty that would deter Ms Mahomet from reoffending.
“A person who is the subject of a penalty finding in 2014 who continues to contravene in the fashion that the respondent did requires a sharp lesson to make her appreciate more clearly than thus far has apparently been the case what her legal obligations are,” he said.
“This is all the more the case given that she still operates three childcare centres.”
Judge Burchardt said the underpayments in the most recent case represented “a lot of money” for the two employees and found that Ms Mahomet had shown no remorse, not apologised to the employees and taken “a long time” to rectify the underpayments.
Threat of contempt ‘a clever deterrent’
Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at Industrial Relations Claims, said the threat of contempt of court proceedings is a clever deterrent that courts can use to deal with repeat offenders.
“Normally with Fair Work matters, you are dealing with incidents that happened in the past, now they can deal with incidents in the future,” he said.
“This has only emerged in the past 12 months – out of frustration the Fair Work Ombudsman went to the courts and said, can you exercise a different power to deal with serial offenders – that being the power to impose an injunction.
“If you don’t comply with the Fair Work Act, you risk big fines and you could lose your business, but now with the threat of contempt of court, it becomes a criminal matter and you’ll be going off to jail.
“Ms Mahomet has been put on notice, if she is caught underpaying workers again, she will be packing her toothbrush, and she will be locked up,” Mr Heffernan said.
If you are not being paid your correct wages and entitlements, or are considering legal action to recover stolen wages, we can help.
Please call our team at Industrial Relations Claims today on
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