A record penalty of more than $400,000 has been imposed against the operators of a 7-Eleven store that systematically exploited its workers.
The penalty follows an investigation and litigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman, which found 12 7-Eleven employees in Brisbane had been short-changed by more than $82,000 and is the largest penalty ever imposed by a court from Fair Work Ombudsman proceedings.
Brisbane businessman Sheng-Chieh Lo was penalised $68,058 and his company, Mai Pty Ltd, a further $340,290.
Mr Lo paid employees flat rates as low as $13 an hour and had tried to conceal the underpayments by creating false records and making entries into the 7-Eleven head office payroll system.
The actions were described as “a sophisticated system of data manipulation and false record keeping” and “a contemptuous disregard of Australian workplace laws” by Federal Circuit Court judge Michael Jarrett.
The National Retail Association declared the record fine a double-edged sword.
“It’s certainly frustrating for those who do the right thing and ensure they pay their employees all their entitlements when others do not comply and are able to gain a market advantage for themselves as a result,” NRA Acting CEO Ian Winterburn said. “At the same time, however, this highlights just how complex the employment landscape is for retailers, and why many of them simply opt to close their doors or only use family members behind the counter at times when penalty rates may apply.”