Perth real estate agency penalised

28 February 2023

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured a total of $17,982 in court penalties against the operators of a real estate and business brokering company in Perth.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court has imposed a $14,985 penalty against Darrell Crouch & Associates Pty Ltd, based in Joondanna, and a $2,997 penalty against the company’s managing director, Darrell Crouch.

The penalties were imposed in response to Darrell Crouch & Associates failing to comply with a Compliance Notice requiring it to back-pay entitlements to a full-time property manager who had been employed at the company between August 2016 and February 2019.

Mr Crouch was involved in the contravention.

Darrell Crouch & Associates back-paid the worker in full only after the Fair Work Ombudsman commenced legal action.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said business operators that fail to act on Compliance Notices need to be aware they can face court-imposed penalties on top of having to back-pay workers.

“When Compliance Notices are not followed, we are prepared to take legal action to ensure workers receive their lawful entitlements. We have no tolerance for employers who deliberately breach workplace laws, as occurred in this case,” Ms Parker said.

“Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact us for free advice and assistance.”

The FWO investigated after receiving a request for assistance from the affected worker.

The Compliance Notice was issued in January 2021 after a Fair Work Inspector formed a belief that the worker was not paid payment-in-lieu-of-notice-of-termination entitlements when his employment with the company ended in 2019, owed under the Fair Work Act’s National Employment Standards.

In imposing the penalties, Judge Antoni Lucev found that there was a need for specific and general deterrence as there can be ‘no doubt’ the conduct was “deliberate” and that “the Respondents paid little heed to the Compliance Notice”.

Quoting Mr Crouch, Judge Lucev said Mr Crouch only “glanced at it”, and regarded it as a “mere nuisance”.

“The Respondents made a conscious decision, from a very early stage in their contact with the FWO, not to cooperate with any investigation, and subsequently not to comply with the Compliance Notice, and did not alter this position for more than four months,” Judge Lucev said.

Judge Lucev described Mr Crouch’s submission to the Court that there should be no penalty imposed or a nominal penalty of $1 as “one of the most extraordinary submissions” the Court has heard in relation to the amount of a penalty.

“There may be cases where no penalty, or a nominal penalty, is appropriate, but those cases will be extraordinarily rare. This is not such a case, and the Respondents’ submissions are suggestive of a failure to appreciate the gravity of the Respondents’ conduct in this matter,” Judge Lucev said.

Employers and employees can visit or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance about their rights and obligations in the workplace. An interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.

Small businesses can find targeted resources at the Small Business Showcase.

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