The Federal Court imposed a penalty of almost $120,000 on an employer for contraventions of the Fair Work Act (‘the Act’) relating to underpayment and record keeping failures. The case involved restaurant owners (‘the respondents’) who agreed to sponsor Mr Kurian (‘the employee’) for a temporary work visa. The employee resided with the respondents and worked full-time at the restaurant. The respondents admitted to underpaying the employee in the amount of $153,352.01. In addition, the respondents breached payslip and record keeping obligations under the Act. The respondents opened a bank account in the employee’s name and deposited amounts into the account. However, the employee did not have access to the account. Instead, the respondents withdrew money from the account and paid the employee cash. The Court also found the respondents liable for providing false and misleading documents to a Fair Work Inspector. The contraventions were serious because they inhibited the ability of the employee to check his entitlements and the ability of Fair Work Ombudsman to investigate the matter. The Court condemned wage theft and noted the vulnerability of the employee, who was fearful that the respondents would cause his visa to be cancelled if he spoke up. The judgment reiterates that the size and financial circumstances of an employer do not exculpate contraventions of workplace law. Contact M+E for information and advice on employment law.

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