A Brisbane 7-Eleven store owner and his company have been fined in excess of $400,000 after being found to have underpaid staff.
Judge Michael Jarrett of the Federal Circuit Court ordered Sheng-Chieh Lo to personally pay $68,058 and his company to pay $340,290 in fines.
The court heard that 12 staff, including some international students, were paid as little as $13 an hour. In total, the 12 staff were short-changed $82,661 between September 2013 and September 2014.
It was found that there were instances where Lo would pay his staff in line with their Australian workplace entitlements and then secretly demand that his staff pay him back. Lo would also manipulated and kept false records in order to mislead and deceive Fair Work investigators.
Judge Jarrett said the facts of Lo’s case revealed that Lo had “a contemptuous disregard of Australian workplace laws” and that Lo demonstrated his contempt through “his persistent attempts to deceive the Fair Work inspectors investigating the relevant complaints”.
In September 2014, Fair Work inspectors targeted 20 7-Eleven stores in compliance investigations following publicity of widespread misconduct in the franchises. Lo’s store was one of the targeted stores.
Lo’s company was ordered to pay $35,000 still owing to staff. Lo must also display a notice at his store informing his staff of their workplace entitlements.
The record fine serves as an important reminder for small business owners and employers to refresh their knowledge and understanding of their obligations under workplace law. Getting it wrong could prove to be costly.