Foreign cook in Perth allegedly underpaid, then sacked by text message for calling in sick

Monday, 1 July 2013

The Fair Work Ombudsman has launched legal action against the operators of a Perth restaurant, alleging a foreign chef was paid nothing for almost four months’ work and then sacked by text message for calling in sick.

Facing Court is Siner Enterprises Pty Ltd, which operates the Curry Tree Indian restaurant in Nedlands.

Also facing Court is Siner Enterprises director Simon Peter Mackenzie, who manages the restaurant. 

An Indian national, who was in Australia on a bridging visa, was recruited through the Gumtree website to work as a cook at the Curry Tree in May, 2012.

It is alleged that the employee, then aged 25, was paid $200 cash for his first few days of work but then worked six evenings per week for the next four months without receiving any pay.

The employee was allegedly entitled to be paid a total of $14,776 in wages and entitlements for the work he performed.

It is alleged that when the employee sent a text message in September, 2012, saying he would not attend work because he was unwell and would provide a medical certificate the following day, Mr Mackenzie responded with a series of text messages terminating his employment.

It is alleged that the conduct breached workplace laws that prohibit taking adverse action against an employee, such as dismissing an employee, for accessing a workplace entitlement, such as sick leave.

It is also alleged that Mr Mackenzie breached workplace laws by failing to comply with a Notice to Produce employment records issued by a Fair Work Inspector investigating a complaint lodged by the employee.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman, Michael Campbell, said the significant amount involved for a vulnerable, foreign worker and the failure to rectify the alleged underpayment were significant factors in the decision to commence legal action.

Mr Mackenzie was allegedly involved in Siner Enterprises committing multiple breaches of workplace laws. He faces penalties of up to $6,600 per breach and the company faces penalties of up to $33,000 per breach.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking Orders for full back-payment plus compensation and damages for the employee, who has been back-paid only $2441. A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit Court in Perth on July 9.

Employers and employees seeking assistance should visit or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94. 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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