The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured a total of $14,820 in penalties in court against a Melbourne-based company that makes aluminium windows and doors and its director.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court has imposed a $12,500 penalty against Innovative Aluminium Pty Ltd, which is based in the south-east Melbourne suburb of Mulgrave, and a $2,320 penalty against the company’s sole director, Spiro Douvitsas.
The penalties were imposed in response to Innovative Aluminium Pty Ltd failing to comply with a Compliance Notice requiring it to back-pay entitlements to a worker it employed as a project manager between January 2019 and September 2020. Mr Douvitsas was involved in the contravention.
Innovative Aluminium back-paid the worker a total of $4,801 only after the Fair Work Ombudsman commenced legal action.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said business operators that fail to act on Compliance Notices need to be aware they can face court-imposed penalties on top of having to back-pay workers.
“When Compliance Notices are not followed, we are prepared to take legal action to ensure workers receive their lawful entitlements,” Ms Parker said. “Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact us for free advice and assistance.”
The regulator investigated after receiving a request for assistance from the affected worker.
A Fair Work Inspector issued a Compliance Notice to Innovative Aluminium Pty Ltd in April 2021 after forming a belief that the worker had not been paid two weeks’ pay in lieu of notice of termination, which he was entitled to under the National Employment Standards.
Judge Catherine Symons dismissed Mr Douvitsas’s submission that he believed he and the worker had a mutual agreement that the worker’s employment would cease without notice or payment in lieu.
“First, the arrangement reached is contrary to law and the Court cannot condone it. Employees are entitled and indeed must be paid their entitlements and not be asked to forego them, irrespective of the economic climate. Second, ignorance of workplace laws (like other laws) is no excuse,” Judge Symons said.
Judge Symons found there was a need to impose a penalty to deter others from similar conduct.
“There is a need to send a message to employers large and small about the importance of meeting obligations owed to employees and the need to comply with Compliance Notices,” Judge Symons said.