In an unusual move, the Federal Circuit Court has awarded pecuniary penalties of $4,000 to a security guard, in addition to more than $27,500 in unpaid leave entitlements after he was sacked in 2017.
Normally pecuniary penalties, which are designed to punish employers who have done the wrong thing, are paid to the Crown, but in this case, Judge Michael Jarrett decided to award the $4,000 to the worker.
Industrial Relations Claims, which represented the worker, has long campaigned for pecuniary penalties to be paid to workers who are victims of wage theft to assist them with legal costs of recovering their stolen wages.
“This case was a fantastic result for our client – not only were we able to recover most of the money that he was owed, but we were also able to successfully petition the court for the pecuniary penalties to be paid to him too,” George Calderon, employment lawyer and seconded consultant from IR Claims said.
Trevor Wehmeyer was employed as a security guard for 1 Stop Security for almost six and half years when he was dismissed in August 2017.
At the time of his dismissal, he was not paid his accrued annual leave entitlements, in addition to loadings totalling almost $30,000.
The company claimed that it could not afford to pay the outstanding money, but Mr Calderon said that is no excuse.
“If you can’t afford to pay your workers their legal wages and entitlements, then you can’t afford to be in business,” he said.
Judge Jarrett agreed with Mr Calderon’s submission that the company had contravened the Fair Work Act by failing to pay Mr Wehmeyer his accrued annual leave when his employment ended, in addition to failing to pay a special loading he was also owed on that leave.
The Court ordered 1 Stop Security pay him $27,586 in compensation.
In addition, Judge Jarrett awarded a further $4,000 in pecuniary penalties to be paid by the company, and for that money to be paid to the worker, and not to the Crown as it usually does.
“In almost all cases, the court orders pecuniary penalties to be paid to the Crown, so the poor worker who has spent a fortune chasing money that is rightly owed to them ends up out of pocket because of time and legal fees,” Mr Calderon said.
“That’s why it was fantastic to see in this case that Judge Jarrett decided to pay that money to our client.
“We have long called for pecuniary penalties to be paid to the worker, or their legal representatives, because we believe that goes some way to provide justice to people who have their wages and entitlements stolen by greedy bosses.”
IR Claims calls for pecuniary penalties to always be awarded to the worker
During last year’s Queensland wage theft inquiry, IR Claims Litigation Director Miles Heffernan called for pecuniary penalties to be paid to wage theft victims in his substantial submission to the Committee.
“It is out experience that in nearly all judgements, pecuniary penalties go to the Crown,” Mr Heffernan wrote in his submission to the inquiry.
“Until this injustice is addressed, a worker who is funding their own claim needs to be recovering more than $50,000 to make the financial risk of litigation worth it.”
If you have not been paid your proper wages and entitlements, we can help.
Please call our team of specialists at Industrial Relations Claims today on
1300 045 466