IT company penalised $20k for underpaying visa holder worker

The FWO investigated after receiving a request for assistance from the affected worker.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured more than $37,000 in penalties and back-pay orders in court against a Gold Coast-based IT services company and its director.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court has imposed a $20,000 penalty against Vertebral Pty Ltd and a further $4,000 penalty against company director Yasien Adams.

The penalties were imposed in response to Vertebral Pty Ltd failing to comply with a Compliance Notice requiring it to calculate and back-pay entitlements to a worker it employed as a network engineer between January and August 2020. Mr Adams was involved in the contravention.

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The worker, from the United Arab Emirates, was a visa holder at the time.

The Court has also ordered the company to back-pay the worker a total of $13,467 owing to him, plus interest and superannuation.

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 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.

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A Fair Work Inspector issued the Compliance Notice in December 2021 after forming a belief Vertebral Pty Ltd had underpaid the worker’s minimum wages, payment-in-lieu-of-notice-of-termination entitlements and annual leave entitlements under the Professional Employees Award 2010, the Professional Employees Award 2020 and the Fair Work Act’s National Employment Standards.