Company faces second litigation for allegedly underpaying door-to-door employees

5 February 2015 

The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced a second court case against a Melbourne business operator, alleging further employee underpayments.

Facing Court is Claudio Locaso and his marketing and distribution business, The Syndicate Group Pty Ltd.

The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges Mr Locaso and his company breached workplace laws by failing to comply with demands to back-pay a total of $9622 to four employees who were underpaid for work performed in 2013.

The employees included a contact centre manager, recruitment and administration manager and two employees who travelled door-to-door offering free power boards and free installation.

The Syndicate Group was contracted by Melbourne company Energy Efficient Technologies Pty Ltd to install power boards in homes as part of the Victorian Government’s Victorian Energy Efficiency Target Scheme. 

It is alleged that the two door-to-door employees, including one aged just 20, were paid nothing at all, despite performing two and three weeks’ work respectively.

The two other employees were allegedly underpaid overtime rates, as well as superannuation, annual leave and termination entitlements.

The Fair Work Ombudsman commenced legal action in 2013 against Mr Locaso, Melbourne man Jonathan Paul William Stielow and the company they jointly owned and operated, Invivo Group Pty Ltd, alleging similar conduct.

In that case, it is alleged that 12 workers who travelled door-to-door offering powerboards – including 10 on working holiday visas and four aged 19-20 years old - were underpaid a total of $35,408. The matter is still before the Court.

Fair Work inspectors investigated the latest case after employees complained.

It is alleged that Mr Locaso and his company failed to respond to three Compliance Notices issued by inspectors in September last year and a follow-up letter in October.

Under the Fair Work Act, business operators must comply with Compliance Notices issued by Fair Work inspectors - or make a court application for a review if they are seeking to challenge a Compliance Notice.

“Our inspectors made extensive efforts to engage with this business operator to try to resolve the matter voluntarily, but were not able to secure sufficient co-operation,” Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says.

Ms James said it was concerning that Mr Locaso had allegedly replicated the business model used by Invivo Group, despite having been put on notice that it was unlawful.

Mr Locaso faces maximum penalties of $5100 per breach and his company faces maximum penalties of $25,500 per breach. 

The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking Court Orders for the company to back-pay the employees in full.

A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit Court for February 9.

Ms James said Fair Work inspectors identify underpayments at thousands of businesses nationally each year and resolve the vast majority by working co-operatively with employers, guiding them through the back-payment process and assisting them to put systems in place to ensure they pay their staff correctly in future.

However, if employers refuse to co-operate, Fair Work inspectors will consider compliance action, including issuing Compliance Notices, which lawfully require employers to take prompt action.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman is willing to initiate legal proceedings where Compliance Notices are subsequently ignored and the Agency believes it is in the public interest to do so,” Ms James said.

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

Helpful online tools include PayCheck Plus to assist business owners and employees determine the correct award and minimum wages for their industry, templates for pay slips and time-and-wages records and a range of fact sheets on workplace entitlements.

Ms James says the Fair Work Ombudsman supports compliant, productive and inclusive Australian workplaces by providing practical advice that is easy to access, understand and apply.

“Equipping people with the information they need encourages and empowers employees and employers to resolve issues in their workplace and build a culture of compliance, ensuring a level playing field for all.”

Underpinning the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website tools and resources is its award-winning Small Business Helpline, where employers can get advice they can rely on with confidence.

Follow Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James on Twitter @NatJamesFWO external-icon.png, the Fair Work Ombudsman @fairwork_gov_au External link icon or find us on Facebook External link icon.

Media inquiries:

Nicci de Ryk, Senior Media Adviser
Mobile: 0466 522 004

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