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The Fair Work Ombudsman has announced the former sole director of a retail company has been fined $11,000 after the Federal Magistrates Court found he presided over "seriously reckless" employment practices.
The Agency took legal action against Raymond James Bird in May last year, alleging he had been centrally involved in a $41,000 underpayment of 25 casual sales assistants, some who were paid nothing at all.
Mr Bird was manager and sole director of Clevedon Australia Pty Ltd, which operated gardening retail outlets in NSW, Queensland and the ACT until it went into liquidation last year.
The underpaid employees worked as shop assistants at temporary stalls in shopping centres selling gardening tools and products.
In his judgment, Federal Magistrate Matthew Smith noted that Mr Bird's initial response to the Fair Work Ombudsman's investigation "was to stall and avoid the inspectors' inquiries" and that he had left Australia for New Zealand after his company went into receivership.
Describing Clevedon's contraventions of workplace law as "very serious", Federal Magistrate Smith said there was "a significant need for substantial penalties to carry a deterrent message, both to Bird and to other managers of similar businesses".
The Court accepted the Fair Work Ombudsman's submissions that 16 staff in NSW had been underpaid $25,700, nine in Queensland had been underpaid $14,900 and two in the ACT had been underpaid over $1000.
Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said his Agency initiated legal action because of the significant amount involved and the employer's failure to rectify the matter.
It was unable to prosecute Clevedon Australia after it went into liquidation.
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