A former Brisbane 7-Eleven operator has been hit with $168,000 in penalties for short-changing workers and falsifying records to conceal the underpayments.
The orders imposed by the Federal Circuit Court were the result of litigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) and followed admissions by Brisbane man Jim Chien-Ching Chang that his company had underpaid eight staff a combined $19,937.
Mr Chang, the former franchisee of the store at 80 Vulture Street, West End, has been ordered to pay $28,000 and his company JS Top Pty Ltd to pay $140,000. Mr Chang and his company sold the 7-Eleven franchise in late 2016 and the franchise is now operated by an entity unrelated to these contraventions.
Court-imposed penalties against 7-Eleven operators have now topped $1 million in litigations initiated by the FWO.
Mr Chang admitted his company had paid flat hourly rates as low as $13, resulting in significant underpayment of the minimum hourly rate, casual loadings and penalty rates for shift and weekend work that employees were owed under the General Retail Award 2010.
Mr Chang also made false and misleading entries into the 7-Eleven payroll system and submitted false records to the FWO.
In his penalty judgement, Judge Michael Jarrett found that Mr Chang knew the relevant award that applied but had “established a business model that relied upon a deliberate disregard of the employees’ workplace entitlements and a course of conduct designed to conceal that deliberate disregard”.
Judge Jarrett found no evidence that the company’s contraventions were motivated by poor cashflow. “Rather, it seems, the company’s profit has been enhanced by the underpayments concerned,” he said.
All underpayments have now been rectified.
The store was one of 20 7-Eleven outlets targeted for surprise night-time FWO visits as part of a three-state operation in September 2014.
The FWO has taken legal action against nine 7-Eleven operators since 2009 with litigations involving three operators still before the courts.
Under a proactive compliance deed with the FWO signed late last year, 7-Eleven committed to measures designed to ensure all its workers received their lawful entitlements through accountability for all operators across its franchise network and supervision by the FWO.