FWO: underpayments; alleged pregnancy discrimination


FWO: underpayments; alleged pregnancy discrimination

National service station group fined $46,200 over underpayments | Regulator takes further court action over alleged pregnancy discrimination.


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National service station group fined $46,200 over underpayments | Regulator takes further court action over alleged pregnancy discrimination.

National service station group fined $46,200 over underpayments
A national service station operator has been fined $46,200 for underpaying more than 200 employees almost $200,000.
The penalty was imposed in the Brisbane Federal Magistrates Court against Freedom Fuels Australia Pty Ltd — a Brisbane-based company that operates service stations in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales.

Freedom Fuels Australia admitted in court that it underpaid 234 employees a total of $191,197, between May 2006 and July 2009.

The employees, including a number of juniors, worked as casual and part-time console operators.

A total of 169 employees in Queensland — at locations including Brisbane, Toowoomba and Goondiwindi — were underpaid $112,615.

Fifty-six employees in Victoria — at locations including Melbourne, Sale, Traralgon, Churchill, Moe and Morwell — were underpaid $73,905, and nine employees in New South Wales — at Kingscliff and Moree — were underpaid $4677.

The employees were underpaid overtime rates and penalty rates for weekend, shift and public holiday work.

Serious matter
Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said the Court’s decision sends a message that underpaying low-paid, vulnerable workers is a serious matter.

Freedom Fuels Australia has directly back paid the underpaid workers it has been able to locate — and has paid to the Collector of Public Monies all entitlements owing to the many underpaid workers it has not been able to locate.

Regulator takes further court action over alleged pregnancy discrimination 
The Fair Work Ombudsman has launched further legal action alleging discrimination against a young employee on the grounds of her pregnancy.

It is the fifth prosecution by the workplace regulator involving discrimination on the grounds of a woman’s pregnancy.

Facing court is the Felix Corporation Pty Ltd, which operates GV Bargains stores throughout Victoria.

Also facing court are the company’s owner-managers.

A part-time shop assistant at Shepparton was allegedly discriminated against between December 2010 and April 2011.

After the employee, then aged 22, became pregnant, she was allegedly directed to take two weeks of unpaid leave.

When the employee refused, her rostered hours were allegedly cut from an average of 26 hours to fewer than 10 hours a week.

The manager allegedly told the employee it was a tradition that women in China do not work when they are pregnant and that she did not want her working.

It is alleged the employee was eventually told that no further hours of work would be offered to her, in what amounted to a constructive dismissal.

The conduct allegedly breached the discrimination provisions of workplace laws.

Under the Fair Work Act 2009, it is unlawful to discriminate against employees on the grounds of pregnancy, race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer responsibilities, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.

Discriminatory behaviour can include dismissing an employee, threatening to dismiss an employee, reducing an employee’s hours, denying training and promotion opportunities or refusing to employ, promote or train an employee.

Workplace laws relating to obtaining written agreement before reducing a part-time employee’s regular work hours, keeping employment records and complying with a Notice to Produce employment records were allegedly also breached.

The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges the owners were involved in Felix Corporation committing several breaches of workplace laws.

Individuals face penalties of up to $6600 per breach and their company faces penalties of up to $33,000 per breach.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking a Court Order for the owners and the Felix Corporation to pay the employee compensation for economic and non-economic loss suffered.

The case is listed for directions hearing in the Federal Magistrates Court in Melbourne on 10 December.

Other cases
Last month, the operator of a Perth child care centre was fined $13,200 and ordered to pay $5000 compensation to an employee pressured into resigning after she became pregnant.

The former owner-operators of a Sydney printing business were fined $23,760 and ordered to pay $2207 compensation earlier this year for committing sex and pregnancy discrimination breaches by demoting and mistreating an employee after she told them she was pregnant.

The former operator of a mobile phone business in Victoria was fined $5940 earlier this year for discriminating against an employee when she attempted to return from parental leave.
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