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Husband & Wife Team fined $150,000 by the Federal Circuit Court due to “deliberate” and “serious” underpayment of workers

A husband and wife team who operate a number of 7-Eleven stores have been fined $150,000 by the Federal Circuit Court because of “deliberate” and “serious” underpayment of  overseas workers.

12 employees had been underpaid $84,047 between September 2013-2014. Judge Suzanne Jones said in her ruling that “There is no doubt that the contraventions were serious” and that she was satisfied that many of the employees employed by the husband and wife team were vulnerable overseas employees.

The FCC issued penalty orders of $20,000 aginst the husband and wife team, and $110,000 for their company.

Judge Jones accepted the husband and wife had rectified underpayments promptly upon being notified, expressed remorse for their conduct and co-operated with inspectors in relation to the investigation of both stores. She accepted their submission that the franchising agreement with 7-Eleven head-office in relation to the store had placed significant restrictions on their ability to generate income from operating the store.

The couple declared a combined taxable income of $145,000 for the 2013-14 financial year and, with their parents’ assistance, purchased a $1.35 million home in 2014 and a $959,000 investment property in 2015.

Ms James of the Fairwork Ombudsman said that deliberate underpayment of vulnerable overseas workers will not be tolerated in Australia. “We are very serious about weeding out employers who think they can exploit overseas workers,” she said.

“Even in situations where the employees themselves are too afraid to engage with us, we are committed to using all powers available to us to ensure rogue employers are held to account.”

“We have minimum pay rates in Australia, they apply to everyone, and they are not negotiable.”

The ruling was passed down on the 1st of July.
(Fair Work Ombudsman v Hiyi Pty Ltd & Ors [2016] FCCA 1634 (1 July 2016)

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