Furniture delivery business fined more than $11k for underpaying a young worker

“I am happy to make a payment to him but I am unable to pull money from the air”.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured $11,322 in penalties in court against the former operators of a furniture delivery business in Maitland, NSW, for a deliberate breach affecting a young worker.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court has imposed a $5,661 penalty against Mr Mariano Ezequiel Lobos, who operated RBE Transport as a sole trader, and a further $5,661 penalty against Ms Jamie Lobos, who was involved in managing the business.

The penalties were imposed in response to Mr Lobos failing to comply with a Compliance Notice requiring him to back-pay entitlements to a worker he employed as a furniture delivery assistant between December 2020 and July 2021. Ms Lobos was involved in the contravention.

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The employee was a young worker at the time, aged 18 to 19.

The Court has also ordered Mr Lobos to fully rectify the underpayment of the worker, plus interest. The worker has been only partially back-paid to date.

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 young workers continues to be a priority for the agency. Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact the FWO for free assistance.”

The FWO investigated after receiving a request for assistance from the affected worker. A Fair Work Inspector issued the Compliance Notice in September 2021 after forming a belief the worker, at the end of his employment, was not paid his accrued but untaken annual leave entitlements, owed under the Road Transport and Distribution Award 2020 and the Fair Work Act’s National Employment Standards.

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In imposing the penalty, Judge Sophie Given found that the failure to comply with the Compliance Notice was deliberate and the evidence indicated a lack of contrition from Mr and Ms Lobos and that “they do not take the contravention particularly seriously”.

Ms Lobos had emailed the Fair Work Ombudsman during the proceedings stating, in part, “I am happy to make a payment to him but I am unable to pull money from the air”.

Judge Given found there was a need to impose penalties to act as a deterrent to others.