A Melbourne hairdressing chain has been fined a total of $70,224 for underpaying an apprentice $8,625.
Paul Mark Salter and George Dimaris, operators of a chain of Cuts Only The Original Barber hairdressing salons, were each fined $10,032 and their company fined a further $50,160 by Judge Heather Riley in the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne.
The penalties came as a result of litigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), who commenced an investigation into the company after the young apprentice lodged a complaint in late 2012.
It was found that the apprentice had been underpaid her minimum hourly rate, overtime rates, annual leave entitlements and penalty rates for weekend and public holiday work.
Judge Riley said the fines were to serve as a message to the hair and beauty industry.
“It is important that a message be sent, both to the respondents and the industry generally that failure to pay workers their correct entitlements is not economic,” Judge Riley said.
“The penalties should be set at a level that means that it does not pay to underpay workers.”
The respondents claimed that they had received wrong information regarding payment obligations, a claim that Judge Riley dismissed.
“The respondents persisted in seeking to excuse their behaviour with weak evidence about being misinformed,” Judge Riley said.
“They do not appear to have accepted that it was their responsibility to ascertain the correct information.”
Judge Riley also pointed out that Cuts Only The Original Barber had been the subject of 10 underpayment complaints from 2006 – 2012. Back-paying employees had resolved those matters.
“These operators had been clearly put on notice and they chose not to comply,” Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said.
“Young workers can be vulnerable if they are not fully aware of their workplace rights or are reluctant to complain, so we have a very low tolerance for employers who show disregard for young employees’ rights.”