The operators of two motels in NSW and Victoria are facing Court for allegedly short-changing four Filipino workers more than AUD 261,000.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal proceedings against husband-and-wife Michael and Rowena Parkes and their company NSW Motel Management Services Pty Ltd.
They operate the Comfort Inn Country Plaza at Halls Gap, in Victoria, and the Quality Inn Country Plaza at Queanbeyan, in NSW.
The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges NSW Motel Management Services Pty Ltd recruited two Filipino couples to work in Australia on 457 skilled worker visas.
All four employees allegedly worked full-time, plus significant overtime. Their duties included reception, cleaning and laundry, waiting on tables, cooking, maintenance, gardening and groundwork.
One couple worked at the Halls Gap, Queanbeyan and Taree motels between November, 2012 and January, 2015.
It is alleged the female employee was underpaid more than AUD 109,500 as a result of being paid little or nothing for more than 3000 hours of overtime work.
Her partner was allegedly underpaid more than AUD 72,900.
Documents lodged in the Federal Circuit Court allege that the two employees were directed to under-record their work hours.
The female employee was also allegedly threatened with dismissal after she spoke to a Fair Work Ombudsman inspector.
The second Filipino couple was employed at the Halls Gap motel between February, 2013 and April 2014.
It is alleged the only one of the two workers was paid a wage on the basis they were employed as a couple.
The male employee was allegedly paid nothing at all, despite being entitled to more than AUD 61,500 during the course of his employment.
His partner was paid for normal hours but received little or nothing for hundreds of hours of overtime work, resulting in an alleged underpayment of more than AUD 17,400.
In separate action, she made a successful claim to the Fair Work Commission that she was unfairly dismissed in 2014.
The Commission ordered NSW Motel Management Services Pty Ltd to pay her compensation of AUD 27,500.
In its legal proceedings, the Fair Work Ombudsman is also alleging breaches of workplace laws relating to annual leave entitlements, allowances, deductions, record-keeping, pay-slips, rostering, working unreasonable additional hours and the requirement to provide a Fair Work Information Statement to new employees.
Fair Work inspectors discovered the alleged contraventions when they investigated a referral from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says legal action was commenced because of the seriousness of the alleged conduct, the involvement of vulnerable overseas workers and a lack of co-operation from the employer.
Mr and Mrs Parkes face penalties of up to AUD 10,200 per contravention, while NSW Motel Management Services Pty Ltd faces penalties of up to AUD 51,000 per contravention.
The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking Court Orders for the company to back-pay the four employees in full.
In addition, the Fair Work Ombudsman is seeking an injunction restraining Mr and Mrs Parkes and their company from underpaying employees in future.
The Agency is also seeking Orders requiring them to commission a professional audit of compliance with workplace laws, undertake training on workplace laws and display notices detailing employee entitlements in their workplaces.
A directions hearing is scheduled in the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne this Thursday, 12 May 2016.
Edited by William Sykes