9 July 2009
$60,000 penalty for employer who pressured teenage workers
The operators of a Donut King store in Tasmania have been penalised almost $60,000 after admitting they pressured nine teenage workers to sign workplace agreements which reduced their penalty rates.
Primrose Development Company Pty Ltd was fined $53,601.25 and company director and part-owner Judith Ann Simmonds, of Bellerive, was fined $6398.75 in the Federal Magistrates Court.
Primrose has also paid $2490 compensation to the teenage workers.
The fines and compensation are the result of a prosecution launched by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Federal Magistrate John O’Sullivan delivered his judgment in Melbourne on Tuesday after the company admitted to duress and breaches of freedom-of-association.
Primrose also admitted breaching workplace law by failing to follow the correct procedures when lodging AWAs for staff in 2007.
Federal Magistrate O’Sullivan found that “there is a need for general deterrence to mark the disapproval of the conduct in question and to act as a warning to others not to engage in similar conduct.”
The nine staff – aged 15 to 19 – were employed by Primrose as sales assistants on a casual basis at Donut King stores in the Cat & Fiddle Arcade, Hobart and Channel Court, Kingston and regularly worked hours which attracted penalty rates.
Primrose still owns the Hobart store but not Kingston.
Simmonds admitted in court that in March, 2007 she presented staff at both stores with AWAs which provided for a flat hourly rate of pay with no penalty rates and told them there was no room for negotiation.
She admitted responding to staff questions about what would happen if they did not sign the AWA by telling them there were plenty of people who would work under the AWA and employees who did not sign would not get any shifts.
The court heard that all but one of the nine teenagers signed the AWA as a result of Simmonds’ comments and all nine - including the teenager who did not sign - had their pay rates changed to those stipulated in the AWA.
A complaint made by a 16-year-old girl from the Kingston store in May, 2008 prompted the Fair Work Ombudsman’s investigation.
Fair Work Ombudsman Executive Director Michael Campbell says the case sends a strong message that employers must negotiate openly and fairly with employees.
“Workplace bargaining must be completely free of coercion and duress,” he said, re-iterating that the Fair Work Ombudsman aims to promote harmonious, productive and co-operative workplaces.
Employers or employees seeking assistance should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 or visit www.fwo.gov.au.
For translations call 13 14 50.
Craig Bildstien, Director Media & Stakeholder Relations,
0419 818 484
Ryan Pedler, Media & Stakeholder Relations Senior Adviser
(03) 9954 2561, 0434 365 924