Former furniture business operator back in court

15 November 2023

The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against the former operator of a business that manufactured and sold wooden furniture in southern Queensland.

Facing court is sole trader Gary John Gietzel, who operated Sunpine Furniture in Toowoomba.

The regulator investigated after receiving requests for assistance from three workers Mr Gietzel employed as casual furniture labourers for various periods between October 2020 and December 2021.

Two of the employees were young workers during the employment period, including one aged 17 and one aged 19 to 20.

A Fair Work Inspector issued a Compliance Notice to Mr Gietzel in June 2022 after forming a belief that the workers had been underpaid wages owed under the Timber Industry Award 2010 and the Timber Industry Award 2020.

It is alleged the workers are owed a total of more than $12,600.

The FWO alleges Mr Gietzel, without reasonable excuse, failed to comply with the Compliance Notice, which required him to calculate and back-pay the workers’ entitlements.

Fair Work Ombudsman Anna Booth said the regulator would continue to enforce workplace laws and take businesses to court where lawful requests are not complied with.

“Where employers do not comply, we will take appropriate action to protect employees. Protecting young workers is one of our top priorities. A court can order an employer to pay penalties in addition to back-paying workers,” Ms Booth said.

“Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for free assistance.”

The FWO is seeking a penalty against Mr Gietzel for his alleged failure to comply with the Compliance Notice. He faces a penalty of up to $6,660.

The regulator is also seeking a court order for Mr Gietzel to take the steps set out in the Compliance Notice, which includes rectifying the alleged underpayments in full, plus superannuation and interest.

A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit and Family Court in Brisbane on 8 December 2023.

The FWO commenced a separate litigation against Mr Gietzel in April 2023 which related to a business trading as Sunpine Pluss. Sole trader Karenne Ann Gietzel was also a respondent in that matter. Last week in that litigation, the Federal Circuit and Family Court ordered penalties of $2,000 against Ms Gietzel and $3,200 against Mr Gietzel for the breach of a Compliance Notice relating to Sunpine Pluss. The worker employed at Sunpine Pluss was back-paid after the Fair Work Ombudsman commenced that legal action.

Employers and employees can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance. An interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.

The FWO provides a free online course to help employers understand what a Compliance Notice is and how to respond if they get one. The Compliance Notice course, among a suite of free interactive courses on offer for employers, managers and employees, is available in our online learning centre.

Small businesses can find resources at the Small Business Showcase and information is available for employees and employers at our young workers and students webpage.

Follow the Fair Work Ombudsman @fairwork_gov_au or find us on Facebook www.facebook.com/fairwork.gov.au.

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Media inquiries:

Ryan, 0411 430 902, media@fwo.gov.au