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Coast business owner fined for 'deliberately' underpaying staff

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A Sunshine Coast business owner has been fined for putting her "own interests" over her staff after she “deliberately” underpaid six casual employees.

Amelia Ann Tester, who runs Tarquin Lavender at Bald Knob which sells lavender products, and previously operated a cafe and bed-and-breakfast, has been penalised $5,250.

The Fair Work Ombudsman says the penalties were imposed in response to Ms Tester breaching the Fair Work Act by failing to comply with two Compliance Notices requiring her to calculate and back-pay entitlements owing to six employees.

An investigation began after a worker contacted Fair Work for help.

The investigator believed the employees had been underpaid minimum wage rates, casual loadings and weekend penalty rates and overtime between August 2019 and February 2020.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker says Ms Tester back paid the employees in full, but only after Fair Work commenced legal action.

“We make every effort to secure voluntary compliance with Compliance Notices but where they are not followed, we are prepared to take legal action to ensure workers receive all their lawful entitlements,” Ms Parker says.

“Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact us for free advice and assistance.

In court, Judge Michael Jarrett found the breaches of workplace laws were deliberate and reflected a preference of Ms Tester’s own interests over the minimum entitlements due to her employees.

“The failure to comply with a statutory notice is serious and in this case it required the (Fair Work Ombudsman) to commence proceedings in circumstances where litigation could have easily been avoided,” Judge Jarrett says.

Judge Jarrett found that Ms Tester has displayed a deliberate disregard for her obligations under the Fair Work Act and the authority of the Fair Work Ombudsman.

“A penalty needs to reflect the seriousness of the respondent’s conduct and it needs to send a message to the respondent in this case to other like-minded organisations and individuals that ignoring the obligations cast upon employers and those that control them by the Fair Work Act will not be tolerated".