The Federal Court has today imposed a fine of $20,000.00 on Bradley Wright, General Manager of Perth restaurant chain, The Local Shack.
In October 2017, The Local Shack terminated the employment of Lovanitasing Veeraragoo, a cook employed on a 457 visa. The Local Shack also failed to pay Ms Veeraragoo two weeks’ salary, two weeks’ notice, or her full annual leave entitlements.
In a judgment delivered today, Justice Colvin found that Ms Veeraragoo had been successful in her claims, imposing a fine on Mr Wright and ordering him to pay compensation.
The Court determined that Mr Wright had yelled and sworn at Ms Veeraragoo during a telephone call on 13 October 2017 and threatened to cancel her visa. When Ms Veeraragoo then took sick leave with a medical certificate, Mr Wright terminated her employment.
On 1 August 2018, the Court declared that Mr Wright had contravened the Fair Work Act in seven ways, including by terminating Ms Veeraragoo’s employment and failing to pay her full salary and entitlements.
The Court today found that Mr Wright had:
- been “personally involved in the contravening conduct”;
- evaded service of the proceedings and indicated “a belief that he can act without personal liability”;
- engaged in conduct that was “considered and deliberate”;
- known that Ms Veeraragoo “was in a vulnerable position given the circumstances of her visa and the need for her to maintain employment”;
- shown no evidence of contrition or corrective action.
In addition to fining Mr Wright $20,000, the Court ordered that he personally pay $8,191.86 plus interest to Ms Veeraragoo as compensation.
Lawyer for Ms Veeraragoo, David Scaife of Eureka Lawyers, said that the decision was a reminder to employers that they needed to take their legal obligations seriously.
“My client was in a vulnerable position because The Local Shack employed her on a temporary visa and paid her modestly,” said Mr Scaife. “It is important that all workers, and particularly vulnerable workers, are not taken advantage of.”
“Even if your business goes into administration or liquidation, you can be made personally responsible for paying your employee’s entitlements. You cannot escape the law.”
“As far as we know, the Wright family continues to operate The Local Shack restaurants in Scarborough, Joondalup, Forrestfield and Mandurah. I hope their employees are now being treated properly.”