The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has secured $108,360 in penalties in court against the former operator of a Melbourne CBD grocery store that underpaid a migrant worker.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court has imposed the penalty against Jenny Global Pty Ltd, which formerly operated the Dae Bark Mart Asian grocery store on Flinders Street.
The court found that a South Korean national, who held a working holiday visa and spoke limited English, was paid hourly rates of only $12 to $16 (plus small cash payments totalling $60) while employed as a retail assistant at the store from January to May 2020. The company also failed to provide any pay slips to the worker.
In addition to the penalty, the court ordered Jenny Global to make a back payment of $8,860, plus interest, for underpayment of the minimum hourly rate, casual loading, overtime pay, and evening and public holiday penalty rates the worker was owed under the General Retail Industry Award 2010.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said employers that underpaid visa holders would continue to risk facing court action and the substantial penalty and back pay orders that can follow.
“Employers should be in no doubt that we prioritise the protection of vulnerable workers, including migrant workers who we know can be at particular risk of exploitation,” Ms Parker said.
“All workers have the same rights regardless of nationality or visa status, including to receive a pay slip within one day of being paid. Any worker can contact us for free advice and assistance.”
Judge Catherine Symons said that the underpayment breaches should be regarded as serious misconduct.
“The conduct of the respondent is especially egregious in circumstances where the employee concerned had characteristics that made him vulnerable to an unscrupulous operator and where the respondent has taken no corrective action, including, so as to redress the underpayment,” Judge Symons said.
“The employee remains out of funds which represented to him almost 50% of his entitlement over the employment period and the respondent, although not apparently operating the Business, remains registered.”
The FWO has previously taken legal action in response to underpayments at the Dae Bark Mart Asian grocery store.
A separate company, Jenni International Pty Ltd (now in liquidation), and a former director-owner of that company, Jordan Shan, were penalised a total of $121,000 in court in 2020 for underpaying migrant workers at the store as little as $10 per hour in 2016.
Mr Shan was also a former director of Jenny Global and prior to the liquidation of Jenni International this year, the companies shared another common director.
The FWO has an agreement with the Department of Home Affairs, called the Assurance Protocol, where visa holders can ask for our help without fear of their visa being cancelled for breaches of their work-related visa conditions.