A farm business is facing huge penalties for exploiting vulnerable two migrant workers.
Farm business facing huge penalties
Facing court is Lotus Farm Pty Ltd which primarily produces tomatoes and cucumbers in Werribee South in Victoria.
Also facing court is one of the company’s directors, Son Thai.
The Fair Work Ombudsman commenced an investigation as a result of a wage theft complaint from the two Vietnamese speaking workers.
The employees worked as pickers and packers on the farm.
Fair Work alleges Lotus Farm paid unlawful flat hourly rates between $13-$14 – well under the minimum hourly casual rates.
Lotus Farm also allegedly failed to pay overtime rates and public holiday penalty entitlements.
Mr Thai allegedly failed to provide pay slips and keep proper records, but later during the Fair Work investigation, he allegedly created false pay slips to cover up the wage theft.
Finally, Fair Work accuses the business of making unlawful deductions from the workers’ wages.
The wage theft totaled $28,530.
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Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan said migrant workers are vulnerable to exploitation.
“Migrant workers often have language issues and may not know their workplace rights,” he said.
“And unscrupulous employers sometimes threaten migrant workers with their visas and their chance to remain here in Australia.
“That makes them perfect pickings for exploitation.”
Fair Work will allege the reverse onus provisions of the Fair Work Act apply in this case.
That means the company will have to disprove the wage theft allegations as a result of the alleged failure to make and keep records.
Fair Work is also seeking penalties against Lotus Farm and Mr Thai.
The company faces a maximum penalty of $66,600 per contravention while Mr Thai faces penalties of up to $13,320 per contravention.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court has a directions hearing is listed in Melbourne on 7 August 2023.
Mr Heffernan advised anyone who is not being paid their proper wages and entitlements to seek urgent expert advice.
“We have extensive experience recovering unpaid wages for our clients,” he said.
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