A Queensland-based transport company has been penalised $80,000 it ripped off a worker $11,000 over nine months.
The Federal Circuit Court found Bundaberg Refrigerated Transport breached its own Enterprise Agreement when it underpaid the office worker.
The Fair Work Ombudsman had previously warned the company about its obligations following other reports of wage theft from workers.
Transport company penalised for wage theft
Bundaberg Refrigerated Transport carries refrigerated farm produce to destinations across Australia.
The company failed to pay the worker lawful rates of:
- $26.09 an hour as a casual employee;
- up to $47.74 for weekend work; and
- up to $52.18 for public holidays.
Instead, it paid her a flat hourly rate of $23 a hour.
Bundaberg Refrigerated Transport also failed to pay the worker her full annual leave entitlements.
Warning for all employers
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from IR Claims says the hefty penalty will be a warning to all employers.
“The court penalised this company $80,000 for failing to pay one of its workers $11,000,” he said.
“It’s simple – employers who do the right thing by their employees will avoid court action and subsequent penalties.
“Those who don’t deserve to feel the full force of the law.”
Company breached Enterprise Agreement
Judge Salvatore Vasta said the Enterprise Agreement breach by Bundaberg Refrigerated Transport “must be seen in a very serious light”.
“I am still of the view that there is no excuse for a failure to comply with one’s own document, and in that respect, the breaches were deliberate.
“There has still been no apology for, to use the vernacular, ripping off an employee over that nine month period”.
Judge Vasta found that there is a need to impose a penalty to deter others from doing the wrong thing.
“Deterrence will only occur if the penalty is such that it not only tells this Respondent that such conduct is totally against what our society stands for, but allows others who are in the same position as the Respondent company to think twice before failing to honour their obligations under the FW Act.”
In addition to the penalty, Judge Vasta also ordered the company to make hard copies of its Enterprise Agreement available at its premises.
In addition he ordered it to display workplace notices containing information about employee entitlements and Fair Work’s contact details.
Bundaberg Refrigerated Transport has back-paid the employee in full.
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