$150,000 in penalties for WA couple

The former operators of a café and a delicatessen in Western Australia's South-West have been penalised more than $150,000 for deliberately underpaying employees, after eight workers were found to have been short-changed a total of $20,036.

The penalties, imposed in the Federal Circuit Court, are the result of the Fair Work Ombudsman initiating legal proceedings relating to the Dalycious Delicatessen at Dalyellup and the Hidden Gem café at Bunbury.

Married WA couple Gemma and Mark Gumley have been penalised $12,000 and $3,000 respectively and Mr Gumley's company Koojedda Carpentry Pty Ltd, which formerly operated the delicatessen and the café at Bunbury, has been penalised $139,995. The company's penalties were imposed in respect of 14 different contraventions. Mr Gumley was involved in two of these and Ms Gumley was involved in all but one of the company's contraventions.

As Koojedda Carpentry is no longer trading, has no known assets and is unlikely to back-pay the workers, Judge Antoni Lucev ordered that the Gumleys' individual penalties be paid to the workers to help rectify the underpayments.

All eight underpaid workers performed work at the Hidden Gem café, with two staff, both chefs, also performing some work at the Dalycious Delicatessen. Both businesses ceased trading last year.

The eight employees variously performed between two and 16 weeks of work between June 2013 and September 2014.

Six of the employees were not paid at all for various period of work performed. One employee aged 19 was paid less than half of her lawful entitlements, not being paid for approximately 5 weeks of her 11 week employment period and receiving between $14.06 and 19.69 per hour when she was paid.

The company also contravened workplace laws by failing to provide employees with payslips on a regular basis and by failing to provide any documents in response to Notices to Produce issued by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

As a result, the Fair Work Ombudsman largely had to rely on employees' own records, bank accounts and the limited payslips provided to establish the underpayments.

Know Your Legal Obligations

To avoid big fines and penalties, expensive back-pay orders and damaging employee claims, employers must pay employees correctly in accordance with Australian employment laws such as the Fair Work Act 2009.

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