The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured $192,995 in penalties in court against the former operators of a café in the Perth CBD after they deliberately falsified wage records.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court has imposed a $168,415 penalty against Quickpoint Pty Ltd, which formerly operated a Japanese café trading as ‘Shimizu Harbour Town’, and a $24,580 penalty against the company’s sole director Augustine Lawrence Chia.
The penalties were imposed after Quickpoint and Mr Chia admitted breaching record-keeping and pay slip laws, including by knowingly making false pay slips and time-and-wages records and providing them to the Fair Work Ombudsman during an investigation.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said employers who use false records to try to frustrate an investigation into underpayment allegations will face serious consequences.
“Falsifying records and providing them to the Fair Work Ombudsman is extremely serious conduct and it will be met with the strongest possible enforcement action,” Ms Parker said.
“Our experienced inspectors will test whether time and wages records are legitimate. If you use false records you will be found out.”
“Employers also need to be aware that taking action to improve compliance in the fast food, restaurant and café sector 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 a request for assistance from a worker and issued Quickpoint with a Notice to Produce documents.
In response, Quickpoint on two separate occasions provided Fair Work inspectors with falsified records purporting to show that Quickpoint had paid two employees at the Shimizu Harbour Town café significantly higher rates than was actually the case.
Judge Christopher Kendall also found that there had been a “blatant attempt by (Quickpoint and Mr Chia) to manipulate or threaten their employees with their jobs” should they not support their “concerted attempt to deceive” the FWO.
Quickpoint, through Mr Chia, pressured the two employees to tell inspectors they had been paid award rates, despite the company having paid them only $15 to $16 per hour.
This included Mr Chia writing a letter to the employees stating: “Anything you say about me or the company about not paying according to award wage can lead to a heavy fine and closing of this business” and “this is a very serious… if you say the wrong thing we all will be out of a job”.
Judge Christopher Kendall described the conduct of Quickpoint and Mr Chia as “reprehensible”.
Judge Kendall said making and keeping false records was “not a straight forward task” and that it required “a fair degree of deception”.
Judge Kendall said the company deprived the employees of their right to be properly remunerated and the falsified records were “an attempt to cover up this dishonest conduct when records had to be produced.”
“When the payslips were produced to the employees, they contained false and misleading information which made it more difficult for them to discover how their rights had been treated in such a cavalier fashion,” Judge Kendall said.
“The need for general deterrence in this matter is high. Employers must be deterred from engaging in similar conduct,” His Honour said.