Sydney construction company fined $22k for failing to backpay a young carpenter

The worker was paid an hourly rate of $23.10, resulting in the underpayment of his minimum hourly rate entitlement.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured a total of $22,743 in penalties in court against a Sydney residential building and construction business and an “antagonistic” director.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court has imposed a $18,981 penalty against Klinsic Constructions Pty Limited, based at Cranebrook in western Sydney, and a $3,762 penalty against one of its directors, John Klinsic.

The penalties were imposed in response to Klinsic Constructions failing to comply with a Compliance Notice requiring it to back-pay entitlements for the period January 2019 to July 2021 to a young worker it employed as a carpenter. Mr Klinsic was involved in the contravention.

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Klinsic Constructions back-paid the worker, who was aged 23 to 25 at the time, a total of $18,053 only after the Fair Work Ombudsman commenced legal action.

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. Employers also need to be aware that protecting young workers continues to be a priority for the FWO,” Ms Parker said.

“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 the affected worker.

The Compliance Notice was issued in December 2021 after a Fair Work Inspector formed a belief that the worker had not been paid all entitlements owed under the Building and Construction General (Onsite Award) 2010, the Building and Construction General (Onsite) Award 2020 and the Fair Work Act’s National Employment Standards.

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The worker was paid an hourly rate of $23.10, resulting in the underpayment of his minimum hourly rate entitlement and was also underpaid industry specific redundancy entitlements and payment-in-lieu-of-notice-of-termination entitlements at the end of his employment.

In imposing the penalties, Judge Sophie Given found that Mr Klinsic had “taken an antagonistic approach to those involved in this matter”, including the worker, the Fair Work Ombudsman and his own legal representatives.

Judge Given noted that this included Mr Klinsic besmirching the worker in correspondence to the FWO and sending several emails to a FWO solicitor with the sign-off “Do whatever you want!” and on two occasions telling the FWO solicitor to “Grow up!”.

Judge Given found that “the contravention itself was wilful” and that there was a need to deter Klinsic Constructions and Mr Klinsic, as well as others in the industry, from similar future conduct.

“It is perverse that they could have avoided the proceedings by simply complying with the Compliance Notice,” Judge Given said.

“The contravention demonstrated a deliberate disregard for the Company’s obligations under the [Fair Work] Act and also the authority of the applicant [Fair Work Ombudsman] as a regulator of Commonwealth workplace laws,” Judge Given said.