Court finds breaches of Fair Work Act and worker underpayments of almost $60,000.
Fast-food operator fined $204k for falsifying payslips
The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured a total of $204,000 in penalties against a Brisbane fast-food business after it underpaid a worker and used false payslips to mislead an investigation.
The federal court found Riddhi Siddhi Pty Ltd, which operates the Vege Rama fast-food outlet and an associated commercial kitchen in Fortitude Valley, had breached the Fair Work Act and fined it $185,000 while company director Ruchika Sharma was fined $19,000.
The legal action followed an FWO investigation into Riddhi Siddhi Pty Ltd after a request for help from a Nepalese national employed as a casual from April 2018 to August 2019.
Judge Salvatore Vasta found that Riddhi Siddhi and Ms Sharma had falsified records to make it appear the worker had been paid award rates.
“The severity and seriousness of what (Riddhi Siddhi and Ms Sharma) have done cannot be overstated,” said Judge Vasta.
“This was a deception that went to the heart of the fair industrial and employment system of this country.
“The courts will simply not tolerate such brazen contraventions of the intentions of the Commonwealth Parliament.”
Judge Vasta said that it would’ve been extremely difficult to detect had the worker not been diligent in photographing their time sheets and tracking their trips to and from work through public transport payments.
“If it were not for the employee having the sense to take photographs of each of the time sheets, if it were not for the employee going to work via public transport and using a go card, and if it were not for the employee having a Google phone that was able to GPS-track his movements for over six months, the scheme, or device used by (Riddhi Siddhi and Ms Sharma) would never have unravelled as it has now,” said Judge Vasta.
The legal action also required Riddhi Siddhi Pty Ltd to back-pay the worker $59,400 plus interest and superannuation after the FWO found the worker had been paid just $11-$13 an hour.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said that those who use fake records and try to hinder FWO investigations would face serious consequences.
“Falsifying records and providing them to the Fair Work Ombudsman is extremely serious conduct and it will be met with the strongest possible enforcement action,” said Ms Parker.
“Employers also need to be aware that taking action to protect vulnerable workers, including visa holders, and improve compliance in the fast food, restaurant and café sector continue to be priorities for the FWO.”
To ensure all employees feel comfortable to ask for assistance from the FWO it has an agreement with the Department of Home Affairs, where visa holders can ask for help without fear of their visa being cancelled for breaches of their work-related visa conditions.