A Melbourne-based electrical equipment company and one of its directors now owes almost $60,000, after being hit with more than $30,000 in additional penalties and costs for failing to compensate a former worker that was found to have been unfairly dismissed in 2015.
Monochromatic Engineering Pty Ltd, trading as MCE Lasers, and its director Zoran Crvenkovic were fined more than $25,000 in the Federal Circuit Court for ignoring a Fair Work Commission’s order from October 2015, and ordered to pay $4718 in legal costs to the Fair Work Ombudsman.
In 2015, the company was ordered by the Fair Work Commission to pay $27,124 in compensation to a former employee, after the Commission ruled the business unfairly dismissed the worker via email. The worker, who was on a 485 temporary graduate visa and later a 457 skilled worker visa, was employed by the company between May 2013 and January 2015.
The company now owes a total of $57,762 to the Fair Work Ombudsman and the former employee, but employment lawyer Peter Vitale believes repayment is unlikely.
“It looks like the director has simply stuck his head in the sand in relation to the initial unfair dismissal case, and then chosen to ignore all the additional proceedings,” Vitale told SmartCompany.
“I think he was just hoping to ignore it and it would go away.”
The Ombudsman said it had issued “several requests” for payment to Crvenkovic and the company to no avail. In the court’s judgment, the Ombudsman’s solicitor Nikki Haig claimed Crvenkovic had told her he had “had enough with the FWO”, and he was “refusing” the order.
Haig told the court Crvenkovic also referred to the FWO as “Mafia, Nazi, Communists”, and said he did not recognise the Federal Circuit Court.
FWO warns of consequences of businesses “flouting” the law
Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Michael Campbell said in a statement complying with workplace laws is “not optional” for Australian businesses.
“People cannot pick and choose when they want to abide by their legal obligations,” Campbell said.
“All workplace participants need to understand that we will take action against those that choose to flout the law – and that there will be consequences for doing so.”
Vitale says the vast majority of businesses are aware of the consequences of not cooperating with the Fair Work Ombudsman and it is rare for the Ombudsman’s orders to be ignored.
“There’s a stringent enforcement mechanism, so it ended up costing the business a lot more than if they had complied with the FWC [Fair Work Commission] in the first place,” he says.
Continual failure to comply could place company director sin contempt of court, says Vitale, which could lead to more penalties or imprisonment.
Vitale says this case demonstrates how the Fair Work Ombudsman supports and upholds orders issued by the Fair Work Commission, and there was a “clear trend” of the Ombudsman enforcing the law against individual directors.
SmartCompany contacted MCE Lasers but did not receive a response prior to publication.