Industrial Relations Claims has negotiated $18,000 compensation for a young graduate exploited by a suburban law firm.
The owners of the firm promised the young man a position if he completed three months of unpaid work experience first, but the job never eventuated.
Law firm caught out exploiting graduate
*Daniel had just completed his law degree and keen to get his foot in the door in the legal profession.
The small firm, located on Brisbane’s south side, agreed to take him on if he first worked as a volunteer.
Daniel consequently completed a number of tasks.
- paralegal work,
- general administration,
- social media and website duties,
all without being paid.
Additionally, he used his own car for company business.
When the three month work experience period ended, Daniel asked about the paid role.
One of the firm’s directors told him, “It’s coming”.
Another three months went by, and when he asked again about the promised job, the director told him not to come back.
Not a proper internship
IR Claims lodged a general protections claim in the Fair Work Commission on behalf of Daniel.
At conciliation, the legal firm tried to argue he was not an employee, but rather an unpaid intern.
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan successfully argued this wasn’t the case.
The work Daniel performed added value to the business, and the overall relationship reflected actual employment.
For an internship to be valid, it must be organised and managed through an accredited tertiary provider, and it must run for a limited specified time.
In addition, the intern needs to be on the company’s insurance forms.
None of this happened in Daniel’s case.
Firm agrees to pay compensation
As a result of the claim, the law firm agreed to pay $18,000 compensation to Daniel.
“It’s common for employers to take advantage of vulnerable young workers,” Mr Heffernan said.
“In this case, when the young man had the audacity to question his circumstances, they fired him.
“Companies that exploit young vulnerable workers can face fines of up to $50,000, and individuals involved, $10,000 per person.”
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