The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured court orders for a $4,000 penalty, and more than $22,000 in payments to a worker, against the operator of a hairdressing and barber business in Melbourne’s inner north.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court has made the orders against Mr Jorge Guillermo Viota, who operates the ‘Jorge Viota Hairdressers and Barbers’ salon as a sole trader on Lygon Street in Brunswick East.
The penalty was imposed in response to Mr Viota’s failure to comply with a Compliance Notice issued under the Fair Work Act last year. The regulator investigated after a request for assistance from a former casual employee who had been engaged by Mr Viota as a hairdressing assistant.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the regulator would continue to enforce laws in a proportionate manner during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When Compliance Notices are not followed we are prepared to take legal action, and business operators need to be aware they can face court-imposed penalties plus orders for backpay,” Ms Parker said.
“Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact us for free advice and assistance,” Ms Parker said.
In addition to the penalty, Judge Heather Riley ordered Mr Viota to pay a total of $22,766 to the worker, made up of $19,669 in backpay, plus superannuation and interest.
“In my view, the respondent needs to be given a substantial penalty for his contravening conduct. Non-compliance with a compliance notice is a serious issue,” Judge Riley said.
“The respondent’s underlying victim was a vulnerable worker, only 18 to 21 years old during the period when the respondent employed her. He paid her a flat rate of between $12 and $13 per hour, when she should have been paid more than $20 per hour,” Judge Riley said.
A Fair Work Inspector issued a Compliance Notice to Mr Viota in March 2020 after forming a belief that he had failed to pay the employee her full wages and entitlements for work performed between December 2015 and December 2017.
The inspector believed (and Mr Viota admitted during the court proceedings) that the employee had been underpaid her weekday casual rate, Saturday casual rate and public holiday penalty rate under the Hair and Beauty Industry Award 2010.
Employers and employees can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance about their rights and obligations in the workplace. An interpreter service is available on 13 14 50. Small businesses can find targeted resources at the Small Business Showcase.