The operators of a juice and coffee bar have been penalised more than $30,000 for stealing a worker’s JobKeeper payments.
In addition to the penalties, the Federal Circuit and Family Court has also ordered the employer to pay the $14,400 in JobKeeper payments to the worker, plus interest.
Juice and coffee bar steal JobKeeper payments
The court imposed a $26,640 penalty against Rika Foods, which operated a juice and coffee bar in Collingwood.
It also penalised company director, Radomir Pantovic, an additional $5,328.
The Fair Work Ombudsman commenced an investigation following a wage theft complaint from the worker.
An inspector subsequently discovered Mr Pantovic received $14,400 in JobKeeper payments but failed to provide those payments to the worker.
The inspector then issued him and his company with a Compliance Notice requiring them to back-pay the worker.
They failed to do so, however.
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Substantial amount of money
Judge Heather Riley described the failure to comply with the Compliance Notice as “deliberate”.
She said it involved a failure to back-pay a “substantial amount of money in anyone’s terms, but particularly for a casual worker in the hospitality industry”.
“Of course, the whole point of JobKeeper payments to employers was to enable them to pay their staff when business was slow or non-existent. The point of JobKeeper payments was not for employers to retain the money for their own benefit, as has happened in this case,” Judge Riley said.
Judge Riley also found that the company and Mr Pantovic had shown no regret for their conduct.
She said she needs to impose penalties to deter similar conduct in the future.
Finally, Judge Riley also ordered that the matter be referred to the Commissioner of Taxation “for investigation into whether the respondents have breached any laws administered by the Commissioner in circumstances where the respondents have admitted to failing to remit JobKeeper payments”.
Previously, the court penalised Mr Pantovic and Rika Foods $11,998 for failing to comply with a Compliance Notice requiring back-payment of entitlements to a visa holder worker.
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan encouraged any worker with a wage theft issue to seek urgent expert advice.
“There are now effective systems in place in many states that make it easy for workers to recover their stolen wages,” he said.
Mr Heffernan pointed to a recent case where his firm recovered more than $100,000 for three beauty trainers.
“We know wage theft laws intimately – and we are experts at chasing every last cent owed to a worker,” he said.
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