Record penalties against 7-Eleven operator

A Sydney 7-Eleven operator has been penalised a record $214,200 for deliberately short-changing two migrant employees and falsifying records, following legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Owner of the 7-Eleven fuel outlet at 354 Flushcombe Road in Blacktown, Mr Harmandeep Singh Sarkaria, was fined $35,700, with a further $178,500 penalty for his company Amritsaria Four Pty Ltd.

They are the largest penalties secured against a 7-Eleven franchisee by the Fair Work Ombudsman, which has undertaken a range of compliance actions aimed at addressing systemic non-compliance by 7-Eleven nationally.

In his Federal Circuit Court judgement, Judge Justin Smith said Mr Sarkaria had “deliberately flouted his legal obligations” and engaged in “a sustained and deliberate process of deception” aimed at maximising financial return.

Mr Sarkaria made false entries into the 7-Eleven head payroll system, with one employee from Pakistan underpaid a total of $43,633 between March, 2012 and March, 2014 and another, also from Pakistan, short-changed $5,793 between August, 2013 and March, 2014.

The underpayments saw the employees often being paid rates equivalent to $10 an hour when they were entitled to receive the usual rates of more than $22 an hour and up to $29.27 an hour for some weekend, public holiday and overtime shifts.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says the court’s decision sends a message that employers who set out to exploit workers face serious consequences.

“Anyone tempted to implement a business model that revolves around deliberate exploitation of workers should think again,” she said.

The decision follows the release of a report by the Fair Work Ombudsman of systemic underpayment abuse across the 7-Eleven franchise.

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