Former cleaning operator penalised $13k for giving a false pay slip to worker on bridging visa

In imposing the penalties, Judge Stewart Brown found that the affected worker was vulnerable and remained “out of pocket” despite direct requests to the cleaning operator.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured a $13,986 penalty in court against the former operator of a cleaning services business in Adelaide who used his father’s ABN to attempt to avoid his obligations to his workers.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court has imposed the penalty against Josef Samuel Neubauer, a sole trader who operated ‘City Central Cleaning’ in the Adelaide CBD.

The penalty was imposed in response to Mr Neubauer failing to comply with a Compliance Notice requiring him to back-pay entitlements to a worker he employed as an administration assistant, and for knowingly providing the worker with a false and misleading pay slip.

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The worker was a Brazilian national on a bridging visa.

The Court has also ordered Mr Neubauer to take the steps required by the Compliance Notice, which includes back-paying the worker in full.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said business operators that fail to act on Compliance Notices need to be aware they can face court-imposed penalties 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 should know we treat falsifying documents seriously and have no tolerance for those who attempt to avoid their obligations to their workers. Those who use false records will be found out.”

“Protecting vulnerable workers, like visa holders, also 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,” Ms Parker said.

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The FWO investigated after receiving a request for assistance from the affected worker, who was employed by Mr Neubauer between October 2020 and February 2021.

A Fair Work Inspector issued a Compliance Notice to Mr Neubauer in July 2021 after forming a belief the worker had been underpaid wages, annual leave pay and payment-in-lieu-of-notice-of-termination entitlements, owed under the Clerks – Private Sector Award 2020.

In imposing the penalties, Judge Stewart Brown found that the affected worker was vulnerable and remained “out of pocket” despite direct requests to Mr Neubauer.

“The FWO has provided evidence of messages which he sent to Mr Neubauer on 13 February 2021 in which he asked when he could expect to be paid and indicated further that he was struggling to buy food. This request fell on deaf ears,” Judge Brown said.

The FWO presented evidence in court that Mr Neubauer attempted to dishonestly portray his father, from whom he is estranged, as being responsible for operating the cleaning business and employing the worker by including an Australian Business Number (ABN) registered to his father on a pay slip issued to the worker.

Judge Brown described this as a “calculated attempt to deceive”, saying “Mr Neubauer adopted the subterfuge of utilising his father’s ABN in order to evade his responsibilities arising under industrial law.”

Judge Brown found there was a need to deter Mr Neubauer and others from such conduct.

“Employees, particularly vulnerable ones, are entitled to know what they have been paid and by whom and specifically how their wages are broken down. They are also entitled to know the formal identity of their employer so that relevant queries about the terms of employment can be referred to the appropriate source,” Judge Brown said.