In a lucrative Christmas/New Year period for the Commonwealth's coffers, the Federal Circuit Court has handed down penalties amounting to more than $580,000 in eight separate cases brought by the Fair Work Ombudsman against companies and their directors for breaches of the Fair Work Act.
The Federal Court has fined a company almost $200,000 for underpaying its aged care workers more than $2.5m over a five year period, finding that its unlawful employment practices might have given it an unfair competitive advantage.
A long history of employee complaints and the need to send a strong message to the hair and beauty industry that "it does not pay to underpay workers" has led to a hairdressing chain being fined $70,000 for short-changing an apprentice more than $8,000.
Supermarket giant Coles will conduct random wage audits of its trolley collection contractors, back pay 10 employees more than $220,000 and establish a $500,000 fund for any future underpayment claims, as part of an agreement with the Fair Work Ombudsman that acknowledges the company's "ethical and moral responsibility" to look after workers on its sites.
In what four judges agree is an "extraordinary case" involving a "spectacularly bad witness" and a "serial fraudster", a Swan Hill shop assistant will keep almost half a million dollars in back pay and interest after a full Federal Court confirmed that she had not agreed to work for nothing.
Giving teenage employees free and discounted pizzas and soft drink instead of wages – a practice belonging "in the dark ages rather than twenty first century Australia" – has cost a pizza franchise operator $335,000 in fines.
A finance broking house that issued a Brisbane-based employee five payslips in six years and employed him on a commission-based agreement that it believed did not entitle him to base salary, sick pay, annual leave and superannuation entitlements has been ordered to pay him almost $124,000 in penalties.
The federal government's decision as part of its "red tape" repeal campaign to rescind the IR guidelines for government cleaning contracts suggests it is "willing to turn a blind eye to labour law non-compliance by its own contractors", according to a procurement expert, Melbourne Law School associate professor John Howe.
A court has today delivered a "wake-up call" to Toyota Material Handling and its HR department for breaches of IR laws that included making a false declaration to the Fair Work Ombudsman, drawing to a close five years of litigation that included a full Federal Court ruling on a time limit that had threatened to derail the case.