Foreign worker on working holiday was allegedly underpaid as cleaner

24 July 2012

A South Korean man who worked as a cleaner in Sydney whilst on a working holiday to Australia was allegedly exploited and underpaid, the Fair Work Ombudsman alleges.

The man, in his early 30s who speaks little English, worked as a night cleaner at Northbridge, where he was allegedly paid $12.50 an hour when he should have been getting $19 an hour.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has initiated legal action against the cleaning company which hired him, alleging it engaged the man under a sham contract, underpaid him and threatened to sack him if he spoke out.

Facing court is Sydney man Jae Kye Lee and his private company Jooine (Investment) Pty Ltd. Mr Lee and his company allegedly breached the sham contracting provisions of workplace laws by knowingly misclassifying the employee as an independent contractor.

It is alleged the employee was required to obtain an Australian Business Number and issue invoices to Mr Lee’s company to receive payment.

Mr Lee allegedly instructed the employee that if he was questioned by the Fair Work Ombudsman, he must state that he was an independent contractor – or his position would be terminated.

It is further alleged the employee was unlawfully required to perform two shifts of ‘unpaid-training’ before he started receiving payment, had unlawful deductions made from his pay and was not paid any annual leave entitlements.

The man was allegedly underpaid a total of $1858 between March and May, 2011. The Fair Work Ombudsman discovered the alleged breaches last year when it investigated a complaint lodged by the employee.

Mr Lee was allegedly also involved in his company breaching workplace laws relating to employment records, issuing of pay slips, frequency of wage payments and complying with a Notice to Produce employment records.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Mark Scully says sham contracting is a serious matter because it can lead to workers being denied their rightful workplace rights and entitlements.

The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges Mr Lee was involved in Jooine (Investment) committing several breaches of workplace laws. Mr Lee faces maximum penalties of up to $6600 per breach and his company faces penalties of up to $33,000 per breach.

Employers or employees seeking assistance should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 or visit A free interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.

Media inquiries:

Ryan Pedler, Assistant Director, Media & Stakeholder Relations
(03) 9954 2561, 0411 430 902

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