$100K fine for company after $60K underpayment

by Chloe Taylor03 Feb 2015
An Australian advertising company and its director have been fined a total of $100,000 after failing to properly pay several workers in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

OHMedia Melbourne was fined $85,000 while the company’s director and part-owner Wen Zhou was fined $15,000. 

The company was also ordered to completely reimburse the employees what it owed them – which amounted to almost $60,000.

In Brisbane’s Federal Circuit Court, it was found that OHMedia Melbourne underpaid 45 casual employees a total of $59,145 in less than a month in 2011.

The case was taken to court following an investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman, prompted by complaints filed by some of the workers.

Most of the employees – whose job was to promote SIM cards and top up vouchers – were overseas workers, in Australia on student and working holiday visas. A number of the employees were paid nothing for their work, while the rest were paid a fraction of what they were entitled to.

Over $48,000 of the underpayment relates to 34 employees who were based in Brisbane, who individually worked up to 133 with no remuneration.

The other employees were based in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney.

OHMedia also failed to keep sufficient records for the workers.

Judge Michael Jarrett found that OHMedia Melbourne had not sought any advice about applicable minimum pay rates, calling the company’s contraventions “at the very least reckless”.

He added that neither the organisation nor Zhou had shown remorse for their actions, requiring the imposition of a penalty which “serves as a warning to others”.

“Employers should understand very clearly that employees, whether within a vulnerable class or otherwise, are not available for exploitation and are entitled to all of the protections offered by the Fair Work Act,” he said. “The failure to keep accurate records undermines the [Fair Work Ombudsman’s] ability to investigate and ensure compliance with minimum standards.”

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said that the Court’s decision serves as a reminder to employers that failing to remunerate staff their basic entitlements is a serious issue.

“Successful litigations such as this also benefit employers who are complying with workplace laws, because it helps them to compete on a level playing field,” she said. 
 

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