Judge fines local business $80,000 for underpaying staff
A BUNDABERG transport company has been fined $80,000 after underpaying one of its employees more than $11,000 over nine months.
The Federal Circuit Court found Bundaberg Refrigerated Transport Pty Ltd paid employee Samantha Healy a flat hourly rate of $23 between October 2014 and July 2015, while she was entitled to rates up to $26.09 as a causal employee.
Ms Healy was also entitled to $41.74 for weekend and overtime and $52.18 on public holidays - under the company's enterprise agreement - but was not paid the appropriate minimum weekend penalty rates.
While she was employed at the company, Ms Healy was not provided a Fair Work Information Statement, and her annual leave entitlements were underpaid.
Ms Healy made inquiries to the Fair Work Ombudsman, who conducted an investigation of her employment in the 13 months from October 2014 to July 2015.
The Fair Work Ombudsman investigation found Ms Healy was entitled to casual loading of $5.22 an hour, bringing the expected total wage to $26.09 an hour.
Despite this, Ms Healy was paid only $23 an hour, $3.09 under what she was entitled.
The investigation found the company failed to pay Ms Healy's minimum overtime rate.
The court found Ms Healy was never given a hard copy of her terms of employment by the company.
Judge Salvatore Vasta said there was "no excuse" for the company, which was found to have breached its own enterprise agreement.
"I do take into account that the company had suffered as a result of the natural disasters that had hit Bundaberg, and is still, as it were, making sure that it is able to get back on its feet," he said.
"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."
Judge Vasta recommended a penalty be imposed to deter other companies from similar actions against employees.
He also noted no apology from the company to Ms Healy had yet been made.
"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," Judge Vasta said.
"There has still been no apology for, to use the vernacular, ripping off an employee over that nine month period."
Bundaberg Refrigerated Transport has since back-paid Ms Healy in full, and in addition to the $80,000 was ordered to keep hard copies of its own enterprise agreement and notices regarding employee entitlements on display.
The NewsMail contacted Bundaberg Refrigerated Transport and Ms Healy for comment. The company did not respond before deadline and Ms Healy could not be reached.