Dark day for windscreens company penalised almost $85,000 for exploiting employees

18 January 2017

An Adelaide car windscreens company and its director have been penalised almost $85,000 after exploiting seven employees, including one who was paid a flat hourly rate of just $12.50 for a period of 10 years.

Complete Windscreens (SA) Pty Ltd - which specialises in windscreen repairs, fitting and tinting - has been penalised $73,425 and its part-owner and sole director Lindsay Dean, of Adelaide, has been penalised a further $11,220.

The penalties, imposed in the Federal Court, are the result of the Fair Work Ombudsman taking legal action in relation to seven Complete Windscreens employees being underpaid a total of $59,969 over a four-year period from 2007 to 2011.

In addition to the penalties, the Court has ordered Complete Windscreens to back-pay the employees in full, plus pay superannuation owing.

Fair Work inspectors investigated the matter after the employees made underpayment allegations.

Inspectors found that one of the employees had been paid just $12.50 an hour for a period of 10 years.

The other employees, including three young workers aged between 18 and 20 at the time, were paid flat rates ranging from $12 to $21.62.

This resulted in the employees variously being underpaid their minimum hourly rates, casual loadings and penalty rates for weekend and overtime work.

Meal allowances and leave entitlements were also underpaid and record-keeping and pay slip laws were contravened.

The underpayments of the seven employees ranged from $1308 to $17,990.

Justice Anthony Besanko found that some of the conduct involved “an element of exploitation”, describing some contraventions as “deliberate, or at the very least reckless”.

Justice Besanko found that Complete Windscreens and Dean must have known that the employee paid the lowest flat rate was being underpaid.

“His hourly rate was considerably lower than other employees who were both younger and less experienced,” Justice Besanko said in his judgment.

“(He) was paid $12.50 per hour over 10 years and nearly every other employee was earning more than him, including the trainees with no experience.”

Justice Besanko rejected the company’s argument that, as a family business, it was not as culpable as a large organisation with dedicated human resources and accounting advisers.

Justice Besanko found Complete Windscreens made “no or no adequate enquiries about the pay and conditions of the employees” despite being a member of the Motor Traders Association of South Australia and having access to industrial advice.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Michael Campbell says the penalties should serve as a warning that blatantly underpaying workers’ minimum Award entitlements is serious conduct that will not be tolerated.

“The size and blatant nature of the underpayments and the involvement of young workers were important factors in our decision to pursue this matter in Court,” Mr Campbell said.

“It is simply not good enough for a business to pay flat hourly rates that significantly undercut minimum Award entitlements.”

Employers or employees seeking assistance can contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 or visit www.fairwork.gov.au. An interpreter services is available on 13 14 50.

Resources available on the website include templates for pay slips and time-and-wages sheets and the Pay and Conditions Tool (PACT), which provides advice about pay, shift, leave and redundancy entitlements.

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 www.facebook.com/fairwork.gov.au External link icon.

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Media inquiries:

Matthew Raggatt, Senior Media Adviser
Mobile: 0466 470 507