The Federal Circuit Court has penalised husband and wife Haiyao Xu and Yiran Gu $20,000 each, and their company Hiyi Pty Ltd a further $110,000, for underpaying overseas workers following legal action undertaken by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO).
The couple previously ran a 7-Eleven store at Parkville in suburban Melbourne, and now operate another in the CBD. Twelve employees at Parkville were underpaid a total of $84,047 between September 2013 and September 2014. These amounts have now been back-paid in full, and 11 employees who worked at the city store are progressively being back-paid. Employees at the city store were short-changed a total of $106,189 between June 2013 and August 2015. Almost all are overseas workers, including international students.
Judge Suzanne Jones found “deliberate” and “serious” underpayment of vulnerable employees and “contravention of fundamental minimum entitlements”.
She accepted Mr Xu and Ms Gu’s submission that their franchising agreement with 7-Eleven head office in relation to the Parkville store had placed significant restrictions on their ability to generate income from operating the store.
However, Judge Jones found that did not excuse their conduct and noted that the couple did have access to money.
“We are very serious about weeding out employers who think they can exploit overseas workers,” FWO Natalie James said. “Even in situations where the employees themselves are too afraid to engage with us, we are committed to using all powers available to us to ensure rogue employers are held to account.”
The enforcement outcomes follow a series of actions by the FWO aimed at addressing systemic non-compliance it has identified within the 7-Eleven network.