A cleaning company has been penalised $140,000 for underpaying 35 workers more than $114,000.
The company also falsified records to cover up the wage theft.
Cleaning company penalised
Carnarvon Cleaners is a contract cleaning business operating in regional Western Australia.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court imposed a $116,550 penalty against the company.
The court also penalised the company’s sole director and shareholder, Margaret Seaton, an additional $23,310.
The wage theft
The affected workers performed cleaning duties in addition to gardening and trolley collecting duties.
The Fair Work Ombudsman investigated Carnarvon Cleaners as part of a national auditing campaign in 2018.
Inspectors discovered that the company had failed to pay proper minimum-engagement pay, casual loadings and part-time allowances,
It also failed to pay proper public holiday penalty rates, overtime rates, annual leave loading and broken-shift allowances.
Individual underpayments ranged from $69 to $16,303.
The company has since back-paid all of the workers.
Inspectors also found that Ms Seaton falsified records to cover up the wage theft.
‘Negligent or careless’
Judge Allyson Ladhams described the conduct of Carnarvon Cleaners and Ms Seaton as “negligent or careless”.
She also found the company had been a “repeated pattern of failing to pay the appropriate employee entitlements”.
Judge Ladhams found that the wage theft affected vulnerable employees working in low income roles and therefore warranted meaningful penalties.
Moreover, Judge Ladhams described the falsification of records as “particularly serious” because it had the ability to “frustrate” Fair Work’s investigation.
She therefore concluded there was a need to impose penalties that were “sufficiently meaningful” to deter others from similar conduct.
“Ensuring compliance with the record keeping requirements under the Fair Work Act is essential to ensure that employees are remunerated according to minimum standards,” Judge Ladhams said.
NEXT READ Migrant workers
Contract cleaning ‘rife with wage theft’
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan said the contract cleaning business is rife with wage theft.
“The cleaning industry employees a lot of vulnerable migrant workers who might not know their workplace rights,” he said.
“This makes it easy for dodgy employers to exploit them.”
Mr Heffernan said recent changes to legislation in some states had made wages recovery much easier.
“If a worker believes they haven’t been paid their proper wages and entitlements, get in touch with us today,” he said.
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