A children’s clothing retailer is facing court after allegedly underpaying four migrant workers more than $140,000.
The Fair Work Ombudsman accuses the company of breaching Protecting Vulnerable Worker laws.
Additionally, the regulator accuses the retailer of serious contraventions including hindering and obstructing inspectors.
Facing the Federal Court are Blue Sky Kids Land, which has outlets in Canberra and Sydney, and its directors, Guo Dong Gu and Fei Rong Yang.
Children’s clothing retailer in court
The clothing store employed the workers, all women in their 40s from China, as sales people in the stores.
Fair Work inspectors discovered the wage theft after one of the workers complained to the workplace watchdog.
Between October 2015 and June 2018, Gu and Yang allegedly underpaid:
- wage and penalty rates;
- in addition to not paying any superannuation.
Individual underpayments range from $16,007 to $47,285.
The employer also allegedly failed to pay the workers annual leave.
Inspectors provided with false records
Fair Work also alleges that companies operated by Gu and Yang provided inspectors with false records.
Some involve record-keeping failures, non-issuing of pay slips and paying rates as low as $10 an hour.
Company allegedly hindered investigation
It the first time the regulator has alleged a breach of the new provision of hindering or obstructing a Fair Work inspector.
It is alleged Gu ordered a store closed preventing inspectors entering the site during the investigation.
Additionally, it is also alleged the company and Yang obstructed an inspector by ordering the deletion of time sheets.
Furthermore, Gu and Yang allegedly threatened to sack an employee for speaking to an inspector.
Company faces hefty penalties
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Fair Work Claims said the allegations are disturbing.
“Migrant workers are vulnerable to exploitation by greedy bosses because they often don’t not know the language,” he said.
“They are also unfamiliar with their rights, and in some cases, are frightened to speak up because they fear their visa might be cancelled.”
Serious contraventions attract a maximum penalty of $630,000 for companies, in addition to $126,000 for individuals.
The Federal Court has a directions hearing listed next month.
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Fair Work Claims is a private consultancy and advocacy firm with no affiliation to any government agency, commission or tribunal.