Employer fined for thumbing nose at FWC orders

Employer fined for thumbing nose at FWC orders

The Federal Circuit Court has imposed significant penalties on a company and its sole director for failing to comply with an order from the Fair Work Commission to pay an amount in settlement of an unfair dismissal claim from a former employee.

The company, G & G Trading Pty Ltd, operates three businesses in Brisbane, BarSpritz, BarSpritz Kangaroo, and the Cliffs Cafe.

The business summarily dismissed their Head Barista on 12 November 2019. The Fair Work Commission heard the claim on 17 June 2020 and determined that she was entitled to an additional five weeks’ pay amounting to $5,096.00 and $677.78 in superannuation. An order for the amounts was issued against the business and the director.

The director did not participate in the commission process.

On 29 September 2020, the employee informed the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) that she had yet to receive any payments as part of the settlement from the company.

The FWO sent an inspector to make enquiries, and when asked to comment about the failure to comply, the director said to the inspector, “I don’t care about the Act”, and “the FWO can come after me”. He then claimed that he was in difficult financial straits and was surviving on a pension.

In June 2021, the business settled their outstanding debt to the former employee but conceded they had contravened the legislation.

In determining the appropriate penalties, Justice Salvatore Vasta dismissed submissions that to penalise both the company and its director would amount to a ‘double punishment’.

As he commented, “Having outlined in quite some detail the facts of this matter, it could never be construed that the breach of s 405 of the FW Act committed by the Respondents was anything other than a very deliberate course of conduct showing contempt for the FWC process”.

With maximum possible fines of $66,000 for the business and $13,320 for the director, he ordered appropriate penalties in the sum of $30,000 and $6,000, respectively.

Fair Work Ombudsman and G & G Group Trading Pty Ltd (BRG 153 of 260) 5 October 2021

For questions about payment penalties, the FWO, or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 925 529, 0417 622 178 or via email to dean.cameron@workforceadvisory.com.au

Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

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