The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured a total of $60,480 in court penalties against the operators of the Bakers Boutique & Patisserie retail bakery outlets, after Court infers they took advantage of a migrant worker’s vulnerability.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court has imposed a $50,400 penalty against Gothic Downs Pty Ltd, which operates Bakers Boutique & Patisserie outlets in various shopping centres in Melbourne, and a $10,080 penalty against the company’s sole director Giuseppe Conforto.
The penalties were imposed in response to Gothic Downs failing to comply with Compliance Notices requiring it to calculate and back-pay entitlements to two workers it employed at Bakers Boutique & Patisserie outlets in Meadow Heights and Caroline Springs between 2016 and 2018. Mr Conforto was involved in the contraventions.
The company and Mr Conforto back-paid the workers a total of $30,107 only after the FWO commenced legal action.
One of the workers was a visa holder from India.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said business operators that fail to act on Compliance Notices need to be aware they can face penalties in court 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,” Ms Parker said.
“Employers also need to be aware that taking action to protect vulnerable workers like visa holders continues to be a priority for the FWO. Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact us for free advice and assistance.”
The FWO investigated after receiving requests for assistance from the two affected workers.
One worker was a pastry cook and the other worker was engaged as a sales assistant.
Compliance Notices were issued in December 2019 after a Fair Work Inspector formed a belief that Gothic Downs had underpaid the workers’ minimum wages, early morning shift rates, weekend and public holiday penalty rates and overtime rates under the General Retail Industry Award 2010, and one of the worker’s leave entitlements under the Fair Work Act’s National Employment Standards.
Judge Heather Riley inferred that the Indian worker, who was sponsored by Gothic Downs on a Temporary Work Skilled visa, was “vulnerable” and that the company and Mr Conforto “took advantage of her vulnerability”.
Judge Riley found that the breaches were deliberate and rejected the company and Mr Conforto’s claim that they were confused about how much was owing to the workers.
“To my mind, the respondents’ protestations ring hollow, in circumstances where they did not pay even the minimum amounts that they conceded were owing until long after the compliance notices required rectification,” Judge Riley said.
Judge Riley said there was a need to impose penalties at a level to provide “an adequate deterrent” for the company and “others who may be tempted to behave as they have”.