An overseas cook who was paid nothing for almost four months work, and then sacked by text message after he took a day of sick leave, has been awarded more than $32,000 compensation.
The Federal Circuit Court described his treatment as an “egregious” contravention of workplace laws and fined the employer, Simon Mackenzie, more than $200,000.
Gurprit Singh, a 24 year-old Indian national who was in the country on a bridging visa, started working as a cook at The Curry Tree restaurant in Perth in 2012.
For the first few days of work he was paid $200 cash, but then worked six evenings a week over the next four months without receiving any pay.
According the the Fair Work Ombudsman, Mr Singh was afraid to complain because he hoped the employer would sponsor him on a work visa so he could stay in the country.
When he sent Mr Mackenzie a text message saying he wouldn’t be at work because he was unwell, he received a series of text messages telling him he was fired:
“For that good luck. Don’t come back”
“Don’t expect any sympathy, pls don’t my lawyer sue you for defamation of my character. Pls return key today”
“If you don’t answer I will ring the police and say you possession of my keys to by business and I want them bak. They will come to your house and arrest you for theft”.
Unlawful adverse action
The Federal Circuit Court found that Mr Mackenzie had taken unlawful adverse action against Mr Singh who was exercising a workplace right by taking sick leave.
He was fined $34,815, and his company Siner Enterprises, was penalised an additional $174,075.
In addition, he was ordered to pay the worker $32,661 in outstanding wages and compensation for economic loss.
Employer acted with ‘sheer belligerence’
Judge Antoni Lucev was highly critical of Mr Mackenzie’s conduct, saying that he acted with “sheer belligerence”, and noted that he had told the court that “there will be no apology at all.”
“Mr Mackenzie’s attitude as evidenced at the penalty hearing is cause for serious concern in relation to any possible future employment by him or by any company with which he is associated.”
Hospitality industry notorious for ripping off workers
Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at Industrial Relations Claims, said the hospitality industry is notorious for employers ripping off their workers.
“It is often the case that many people who work in hospo are young, or international workers, many times on visas, who may not be aware of their rights, or who might be too scared to speak up,” he said.
“The Fair Work Ombudsman only has so many inspectors, and can only conduct so many investigations, so many employers believe not paying their employees proper wages and entitlements is a risk worth taking.
“It almost beggars belief that a boss would sack someone via text who he hadn’t paid for four months – hopefully the more than $200,000 in court-ordered penalties will make him think twice before he considers doing it again.”
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Please call our team at Industrial Relations Claims today on
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