A Queensland dairy farmer is facing thousands of dollars in penalties for allegedly underpaying a migrant worker.
The Fair Work Ombudsman also accuses the employer of ignoring a Compliance Notice requiring him to calculate and back-pay the worker’s entitlements.
Queensland dairy farmer facing penalties
Facing the Federal Circuit Court is Mark Hess, who operates a dairy farm business trading as M.L. Hess Dairy Producer near Toowoomba.
Fair Work commenced an investigation following a complaint from a French national, working at the farm on a holiday visa.
Hess employed the man on a casual basis to do general farm work, house cleaning, in addition to milking and feeding cows.
An inspector believed Hess failed to pay the worker lawful casual minimum rates, in addition to penalty rates for public holiday work between August and November 2019.
As a result of the investigation, the inspector issued Hess with a Compliance Notice in February.
The Notice required him to calculate and back-pay the worker’s outstanding wages and entitlements.
Despite several reminders, Fair Work alleges that Hess, without reasonable excuse, failed to do so.
Additionally, the regulator also alleges Hess failed to issue pay slips and failed to keep proper wage and time records.
“BRISBANE ELECTRICAL SERVICES BUSINESS IN COURT OVER UNDERPAYMENTS”
Penalties for Queensland dairy farmer
Fair Work is seeking a penalty against Hess, in addition to a court order requiring him to rectify and back-pay any underpayments in full, plus superannuation and interest.
As a result, Hess faces a maximum penalty of $13,320 for each contravention.
The Federal Circuit Court has a directions hearing listed in Brisbane on 13 November 2020.
Criminal penalties for wage theft
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Fair Work Claims says criminal penalties now exist for wage theft in Queensland.
“Recently, the state government passed legislation making wage theft a crime in the state,” he said.
“Employers should consequently be on notice – if you deliberately or recklessly steal wages from your workers, you will end up with a criminal conviction and possibly even a jail sentence.”
“WAGE THEFT NOW A CRIME IN QUEENSLAND AFTER NEW LAWS PASS PARLIAMENT”
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