The three directors of a small pharmacy chain have been penalised $45,000 for underpaying two former employees, one of whom was short-changed to the tune of 93 weeks’ wages.
In a verdict handed down by the Federal Circuit Court, Nader Bastawrose, Amgad Samaan and Ashraf Youssef – the directors of four Save and Deliver pharmacies in NSW, were found guilty of underpaying two workers by using flat rates below the award minimum, as well as breaching regulations on record-keeping and providing pay slips.
One worker, who conducted home deliveries and other general duties for two Sydney stores between September 2009 and June 2013, was underpaid a staggering $62,010 as a result of his hourly rates being paid at between $12 and $14.
According to the relevant award, the worker was entitled to at least $16 per hour ordinary time and as much as $43 including penalty rates.
A second employee, working within the company’s Shellharbour store in Wollongong, was also underpaid $5,296.
While both workers have since been repaid, this was only done after the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) commenced legal proceedings.
“The partnership was largely unconcerned with anything other than its own business needs and was largely uninterested in how those demands were affected by the requirements of industrial law,” judge Robert Cameron said in his verdict, noting the trio’s conduct “points to a degree of culpable recidivism in the contraventions”.
He added that underpaid amount was “the equivalent of about 93 weeks’ wages” for the primary victim.
Each of the three directors was handed a $15,000 penalty.
“A small number of unscrupulous employers still need to get the message that it is unlawful to pay overseas and migrant workers a ‘going rate’ that undercuts lawful minimum rates,” said Kristen Hannah, acting Fair Work Ombudsman.
“Cases such as this one should drive home the point to employers that lawful minimum rates apply to all employees in Australia and are not negotiable.”
The case also highlights that employers can still be brought to task for compliance breaches many years after the fact, meaning that an impacted worker leaving the business does not automatically end the company's liability.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.