Employer fined for paying worker according to mental age

by HCA02 Mar 2012

A magistrates court has handed down an $11,500 fine to a Melbourne employer who deliberately underpaid an employee claiming “he had the mental capacity of a 13-year-old and wasn't worth more”.

The Garfield Berry Farm store in the Gippsland region of Victoria was found to have underpaid a man in his 20s by more than $30,000 over a 2.5-year period, a court found this week. When Fair Work inspectors questioned the manager about her payments to the worker, which varied between $10.79 and $12.78 an hour, she said the worker was not worth the full entitlement of $17-$18.

The federal magistrate ruled the underpayment was “deliberate and severe” and ordered that part of the fine should also go to the worker as compensation, in addition to his back pay.

Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson commented that the penalty highlighted the court’s view that deliberately underpaying employees was a serious matter and would not be tolerated. “Successful prosecutions such as this benefit employers who are complying with workplace laws because it helps them to compete on a level playing field,” he said.

One would hope the Garfield Berry Farm store has no HR department. If it has, $10.79 and $12.78 an hour is probably too much for them, too.