The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against an IGA supermarket operator in Melbourne, alleging he underpaid employees as young as 19 and used false records to give to the FWO, despite being previously put on notice of his obligations to correctly pay employees and keep records.
Facing the Federal Circuit Court is Said “Sam” Haddad, who is the operator and majority owner of the Fairfield IGA supermarket and was formerly the majority owner and operator of the Altona IGA supermarket.
Also facing Court in relation to the alleged conduct are two companies Haddad is a director of, Hadya Nominees Pty and Deja Vu Elite Security Pty Ltd.
The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges six employees at the two IGA supermarkets were underpaid a total of $11,373 between November 2013 and November 2015. Three of the employees were young workers aged between 19 and 23 at the time. It is alleged that after receiving requests for assistance from workers, Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors investigated and discovered that two employees at the Altona IGA had been allegedly underpaid a total of $7465.
Inspectors subsequently conducted an audit of the Fairfield outlet and allegedly discovered that four employees had been underpaid a total of $3907.
Documents filed in court claim the employees were paid flat rates ranging from $15 to of $20 an hour. This allegedly resulted in underpayments of the minimum hourly rates, casual loadings, overtime rates and penalty rates for evening, weekend and public holiday work they were entitled to under the General Retail Industry Award.
Other alleged contraventions include:
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says legal action has been commenced because of the seriousness of the alleged conduct and the fact that Haddad had allegedly previously been put on notice of his obligations in relation to payment of employees and record keeping obligations.
“Young workers can be more vulnerable to exploitation as they are often not fully aware of their rights or reluctant to complain,” James said.
Haddad faces maximum penalties of up to $10,800 per contravention. Hadya Nominees Pty and Deja Vu Elite Security Pty Ltd face penalties of up to $51,000 and $54,000 per contravention, respectively, for a number of alleged contraventions of the Fair Work Act. In addition to the penalties, the Fair Work Ombudsman is seeking Court Orders requiring Haddad and Hadya Nominees to make back-payments to two workers who have allegedly not been back-paid. The other four workers have been back-paid.
The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking Court Orders requiring a workplace notice detailing employee entitlements to be displayed at the Fairfield IGA and other stores covered by the General Retail Industry Award operated by Deja Vu Elite Security Pty Ltd or Haddad, and an injunction restraining Haddad from being involved in underpaying workers in future.
If the injunction is granted, Haddad could face contempt of court proceedings for any further underpayment contraventions proven in court.
A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne on 15 March.
Inside Small Business