30 April 2010
Former Sydney café operators fined almost $100,000 for breaching young worker’s rights
The former operators of a café in Sydney have been fined a total of $96,030 for breaching a teenage worker’s rights following a prosecution by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Sydney couple Robert and Silvana Ognenovski owned and operated a Gloria Jeans café at Revesby until they sold it in 2008.
The Ognenovskis have each been fined $5940 and their company - Oggy Pty Ltd, which is now in liquidation – a further $84,150.
Federal Magistrate Michael Lloyd-Jones imposed the penalties after finding Oggy had contravened workplace laws by applying duress to and breaching the freedom of association rights of an 18-year-old employee in 2006.
Federal Magistrate Lloyd-Jones also ordered Oggy to pay the employee compensation of $1798 and the Ognenovskis to each pay her compensation of $1000.
He found that as a result of the employee’s refusal to sign a workplace agreement that contained a reduced pay rate, the employee had her working hours cut and she was then dismissed.
The staff member had felt “intimidated” by the duress, he found.
“These acts engaged in by Oggy, Mr and Mrs Ognenovski are particularly reprehensible in light of (the employee’s) vulnerable position,” Federal Magistrate Lloyd-Jones said.
“(She) was only 18, was only in her second job and had only been working at Oggy for approximately two months.”
Federal Magistrate Lloyd-Jones found that Oggy had also breached workplace laws by underpaying the employee.
The underpayment was rectified by way of a $300 back-payment only after the Fair Work Ombudsman launched its prosecution.
Fair Work Ombudsman NSW Director Mark Davidson says the Court penalty reinforces the message to employers that breaching a young worker’s rights is a particularly serious matter.
“This outcome is a reminder of the consequences for companies and individuals who fail to negotiate with workers openly and fairly,” he said.
The Fair Work Ombudsman promotes harmonious, productive and co-operative work-places. It also monitors compliance and investigates breaches of national workplace laws.
Employers or employees seeking assistance should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 or visit www.fairwork.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