1 September 2010
Court fines Albury café owner $21,900
A former owner-operator of an Albury café has been fined $21,900 for underpaying three workers following a prosecution by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
The Chief Industrial Magistrate’s court in Sydney has imposed the penalty against Leslie Graeme Beard, who was the primary owner-operator of Georges’ on Dean before it closed in 2008.
Beard admitted he was centrally involved in underpaying three female employees aged 19, 21 and 35 amounts of $3072, $1419 and $1152. The women were underpaid wages, annual leave, sick leave, weekend and overtime rates, rest breaks and pay in lieu of notice.
Chief Industrial Magistrate Gregory Hart has ordered that part of Beard’s penalty be used to back-pay entitlements still owed to the former employees within 28 days.
Handing down his decision, Chief Industrial Magistrate Hart said evidence showed emphatically that Beard “behaved as a bad-tempered bully prone to the use of abusive language, including obscene and offensive language, in the workplace towards his employees”.
Chief Industrial Magistrate Hart said Beard was “particularly inclined to behave in this fashion if the employees dared to ask him about underpayment of wages, sick leave entitlements and so on.
“I am left with the conclusion that (Beard) had a low opinion of his own employees and his failure to ensure that they received their minimum lawful entitlements flowed from his attitude to his employees and not simply from a lack of knowledge or expertise in the field of industrial law.
“Decent and conscientious employers do make honest mistakes in payroll matters. They are sometimes quite complex and difficult to apply accurately. Such employers are usually horrified when they discover that they have accidentally underpaid a valued employee. They respond by prompt rectification, accompanied by heartfelt apologies. No such response has been observed in the case of (Beard). Indeed, in this case, there has been a marked absence of genuine contrition or remorse and no evidence of any genuine attempt to provide restitution to the three employees who were underpaid.”
Beard also admitted failing to issue payslips to workers and failing to provide employment records to workplace inspectors.
The Fair Work Ombudsman discontinued legal action against Chimaera Media Group, of which Beard was a director, after the company went into liquidation last year.
Fair Work Ombudsman Executive Director Michael Campbell says the Agency treats deliberate underpayment of workers, particularly young employees, very seriously.
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.
Ryan Pedler, Senior Adviser, Media & Stakeholder Relations
(03) 9954 2561, 0434 365 924