Big penalty for company and director that flouted FWC order

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Monday, September 29, 2014,The Federal Court has imposed a penalty of more than $47,000 on an employer and its director for failing to comply with an FWC order to pay $2,200 compensation, plus interest, to an unfairly dismissed employee.

Judge John O’Sullivan last week ordered World Gym Sunshine Pty Ltd to pay a fine of $41,182.50 and the director $6,426 for their wilful failure to comply with Commissioner Tim Lee’s January 17 compensation order.

Commissioner Lee had on November 12 last year found that the company had unfairly dismissed its receptionist, but didn’t determine the remedy until this year.

The receptionist pursued the company over its failure to comply with the order, but when this didn’t succeed, she went to the Fair Work Ombudsman and it took up her case.

Judge O’Sullivan said the case was “a serious matter” and the receptionist “ought to have been entitled to expect that [World Gym] would abide by the umpire’s orders (i.e. the FWC order).”

He said the failure to comply with the order “involved senior management at every stage of the proceedings in the FWC” and the director had not answered requests to comply.

Judge O’Sullivan said there was no evidence to suggest that World Gym “has shown any insight into, let alone remorse for, its behaviour, nor is there anything to demonstrate cooperation with the [Fair Work Ombudsman] save only at the door of the Court and after the commencement of these proceedings.

“There is no evidence that the failure to comply with the FWC orders is not deliberate.

“Everything points to the likelihood that [World Gym] until the commencement of these proceedings has wilfully ignored [the orders]”.

In determining the penalties, Judge O’Sullivan noted that the director was “directly involved” in “what can only be described as deliberate conduct by [World Gym] in not complying with the FWC order”.

The penalties for the company and director constituted 82% and 63% of the then maximum fines of $51,000 and 10,200 respectively.


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