A Melbourne travel agent has been penalised $400,000 for underpaying two migrant workers.
The wage theft involved an illegal cash-back arrangement the business made as a condition of sponsoring the employees on their visas.
Travel agent made worker pay-back $20,000
Abella Travel, and it’s director Joung Hyung Lee, admitted to forcing a migrant worker pay-back over $20,000 of her wages.
Additionally, Lee proposed a similar cash-back scheme to a second migrant worker.
Lee told both workers the cash-back arrangements were a condition of Abella Travel sponsoring them on 457 visas.
Furthermore, Lee provided false records and failed to pay one of the employees
- the legal applicable wage,
- penalty and overtime rates,
- and leave entitlements.
The underpayments to the two workers totalled $37,464.
One of the workers told the court the underpayments forced her to share a bedroom in a share-house.
Furthermore, she had to borrow money from family.
Meanwhile, the other worker said she could not always afford public transport and therefore had to walk long distances.
In 2014, Abella Travel underpaid a Korean national more than $4,200.
Instead of taking legal action, the Fair Work Ombudsman offered the company a chance to enter into an Enforceable Undertaking.
The company promised to comply with workplace laws moving forward.
Employer ‘recidivist’ offenders
Judge Heather Riley found Abella Travel and Lee are “recidivists”.
Further, she said Lee targeted vulnerable people and exploited them for his own financial benefit.
“The respondents’ behaviour in this regard is deserving of considerable censure, especially as, while underpaying staff, (Mr Lee) has accumulated considerable equity in real estate, and $200,000 cash in the bank.
“The respondents’ level of dishonesty is such in this case that I cannot be confident that they will not contravene again.”
The court penalised Abella Travel $332,100 and Lee a further $66,420.
Enforceable Undertakings over used
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from IR Claims says Fair Work relies too heavily on Enforceable Undertakings.
“These agreements save the enforcement agency from actually doing any enforcing of workplace laws,” he said,
“Furthermore, they offer dodgy employers a ‘get-out-of-jail free’ card.”
Please call our team at Industrial Relations Claims today on
1300 045 466