Companies facing hefty fines for ignoring FWC orders

by Chloe Taylor19 Jan 2015
A company based in Canberra is facing legal action following allegations that it had ignored a Fair Work Commission (FWC) order to compensate an employee who had been unfairly dismissed.

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has commenced legal proceedings against Heath Wright and his company HW Carpentry Solutions.

In August, the FWC ordered the HW Carpentry to pay $7650 in compensation to an adult apprentice tradesman who was found to have been unjustifiably dismissed.
The employee filed a complaint with the FWO when the compensation was not paid within the requested 14 days.

Following this, the FWO made several requests that the company conform to the orders.

“Our inspectors made repeated efforts to engage with this business to try to resolve the matter, but were not able to secure co-operation,” said Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James. “Compliance is fundamental for the integrity of the workplace relations system and employers should be aware that we are prepared to take action where appropriate.”

Wright now faces a maximum penalty of $10,200, while his company’s maximum penalty stands at $51,000. The FWO is also pursuing a Court Order for Wright’s company to pay the outstanding compensation to the employee.

But this was not a singular case.

Melbourne company World Sunshine Gym and its director were fined almost $50,000 in September  after ignoring a FWC order to pay $2200 in compensation to an employee who had been unfairly dismissed.

This was the first case of court action in response to a breach of FWC orders to pay unfair dismissal compensation.

Judge John O’Sullivan described the case as a “very serious matter” when he handed down his decision.

He said that the penalty imposed should create a “significant measure of general deterrence so that others understand the need to accept the umpire’s decision and comply with Orders of the Fair Work Commission.”

A spokesperson for the FWO said that Fair Work Inspectors issued several notices to the employer after being contacted by the employee who had not received his compensation.

Judge O’Sullivan found that World Gym Sunshine had “wilfully ignored” the Commission’s Orders, adding that the employee “had to go to the cost, expense and time of seeking compliance with the Orders through these proceedings”.

The judge also condemned World Gym Sunshine’s lack of insight or remorse for its behaviour.

“They could have avoided this significant penalty by simply accepting the Commission’s original ruling and paying this young employee the relatively small amount of compensation ordered,” said the FWO spokesman. “Compliance with Commission Orders is fundamental for the integrity of the workplace relations system and employers should be aware that we are prepared to take action where appropriate to ensure they are enforced.”
 

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