Employer faces six-figure penalty for falsifying records

Cautionary tale reminds employers of the cost of 'frustrating an investigation'

Employer faces six-figure penalty for falsifying records

Operators of a Brisbane fast food business face a total of $204,000 in penalties after using false records to try to obstruct an investigation, according to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO).

The Federal Circuit and Family Court imposed a $185,000 penalty against Riddhi Siddhi Pty Ltd, which operates the Vege Rama fast food outlet and an associated commercial kitchen in Fortitude Valley, and an additional $19,000 fine against the company director Ruchika Sharma after a series of Fair Work Act violation.

Fake records and pay slips

The investigation came after the FWO received a request for assistance from a Nepalese visa holder employed in the company as a casual kitchen hand from April 2018 to August 2019.

The company breached the Fair Work Act by giving false pay slips to an employee and failing to conform with a Compliance Notice which requires the company to back-pay the worker, who worked up to 66 hours per week and was paid $11 to $13 an hour.

Judge Salvatore Vasta discovered that Riddhi Sidhi and Sharma falsified records to make it appear that the Nepalese worker had been paid Award rates and provided such documents to the FWO in “an attempt to obfuscate the truth and to ensure that any proper investigation was never able to be pursued.”

Only when the FWO initiated legal action did the company back-paid the worker with $59,400, plus interest and superannuation.

The severity of the action

The FWO Ombudsman, Sandra Parker, said employers who fake records to frustrate an investigation into underpayment allegations would face the strictest enforcement possible.

Vasta also said that the need for the Court to impose appropriate and deterrent penalties for employers who try to corrupt the Fair Work Act concerning the proper balance between employees’ and employers’ rights must always be made clear.

“The severity and seriousness of what (Riddhi Siddhi and Ms. Sharma) have done cannot be overstated. This was a deception that went to the heart of the fair industrial and employment system of this country,” he said.

Rights of the employees

Parker said that employers should be aware that it is the FWO’s priority to protect vulnerable workers, including visa holders, and improve compliance in the fast food, restaurant, and café sector.

“Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact us for free advice and assistance,” Parker said.

The FWO said it has an agreement with the Department of Home Affairs, called the Assurance Protocol, where visa holders can seek help without concerns about their visa cancellation for breaches of their work-related visa conditions.


 

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