A Victorian plumber, notorious for exploiting young workers, has been penalised $151,200 for underpaying a young employee who he falsely classified as an apprentice.
It’s the second time the employer has been taken to court over “startlingly similar” conduct – bringing his total penalties to over $270,000.
Paid apprentice rates
Michael Patrick Pulis, and his company Pulis Professional Plumbing, underpaid a 22 year-old for six weeks work at various locations around Melbourne.
Pulis paid the worker as a third year apprentice, despite never signing him up to a legitimate apprenticeship.
Without a formal apprenticeship agreement, the worker was entitled to be paid under the Plumbing and Fire Sprinklers Award 2010.
Instead, he was underpaid minimum rates for ordinary hours, overtime pay, various allowances and leave entitlements, and termination payments.
In total, he was short changed $4,035 between July and September 2017.
The company also failed to pay $570 in superannuation.
Pulis and his company also provided Fair Work inspectors with a falsified employer apprenticeship document and falsified time-and-wages records that purported to show the employee was paid higher rates than he actually was.
Conduct ‘deliberate and exploitative’
In the Federal Circuit Court, Judge Alister McNab described Pulis’ conduct as “deliberate and exploitative” –
“The Respondents have engaged in deliberate conduct in failing to sign [the worker] up to a training contract and by underpaying him.
“Mr Pulis was actively engaged in litigation on the same subject matter at the time when this contravention occurred and must have been aware of the company’s obligations and deliberately chose not to observe them.
“It is conduct that undermines the apprenticeship scheme and it affects the employee beyond the fact of underpaying entitlements.”
Judge McNab penalised Pulis $27,200 and Pulis Professional Plumbing a further $124,000.
They must also notify the Fair Work Ombudsman if they employ any worker on an apprenticeship during the next two years.
Criminal penalties needed
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Industrial Relations Claims has once again called for wage theft to be made a criminal offence.
“This is the perfect example of where criminal penalties would be appropriate,” he said.
“Here we have a repeat offender, deliberately ripping off a worker for a second time, in addition to providing the regulator with falsified employment records.
“It’s time we started locking up greedy bosses like Mr Pulis to send the message that this sort of appalling conduct is not acceptable.”
If you are not being paid your correct wages and entitlements, or if you are considering legal action to recover stolen wages, we can help.
Please call our team at Industrial Relations Claims today on
1300 045 466