Albury-Wodonga hair salon operators face court over alleged discrimination

25 January 2011

The Fair Work Ombudsman has launched a prosecution against the operators of three hairdressing salons in Albury-Wodonga, alleging they discriminated against a physically disabled employee.

Facing court is Rutherglen couple Stanislaus Henricus Somers and Susan Lynette Somers and their company Drivecam Pty Ltd.

Through their company, Mr and Mrs Somers own and operate two ‘Border Barber’ men’s hairdressing salons in Albury and one in Wodonga.

Documents lodged in the Federal Magistrates Court in Sydney allege that Mr and Mrs Somers were centrally involved in their company breaching the Fair Work Act by discriminating against and underpaying a physically disabled employee, a local man in his 30s, in February last year.

The employee is a qualified hairdresser who has a damaged spinal nerve from a bike accident which causes pins-and-needles and sharp pains in his hands.

The employee allegedly responded to an advertisement early last year for a hairdressing position at Border Barber paying “above Award” wages.

However, it is alleged that after he disclosed his disability, Mr Somers offered him an employment contract on the trainee rate of $9.23 an hour, stating in the contract that this was “due to medical condition (back)”.

It is alleged the employee then worked at Border Barber on a casual basis for three weeks on the trainee rate before resigning when Mr and Mrs Somers refused to increase his pay rate.

The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges the employee was entitled to receive $17 to $25 per hour.

It is alleged he was underpaid $599, which was back-paid to him in October.

Mr and Mrs Somers and their company allegedly further breached workplace laws by failing to issue the employee with pay slips.

The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges Mr and Mrs Somers were involved in Drivecam committing four breaches of workplace laws.

Drivecam faces maximum penalties of $33,000 per breach for the underpayment and discrimination matters and $5500 for the pay slip matter.

Mr and Mrs Somers each face maximum penalties of $6600 for the underpayment and discrimination matters and $1100 for the pay slip matter.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking a Court Order for Drivecam to pay compensation to the employee for economic loss suffered.

The case is listed for a directions hearing on February 9.

Fair Work Ombudsman Executive Director Michael Campbell says it is unlawful to discriminate against workers on the grounds of disability.

It is also unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age, marital status, family or carer responsibilities, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.

An overview of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s activity for 2009-10 in relation to discrimination complaints is available on the agency’s website.

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.

Media inquiries:

Ryan Pedler, Senior Adviser, Media & Stakeholder Relations
(03) 9954 2561, 0411 430 902
ryan.pedler@fwo.gov.au

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