The Fair Work Ombudsman is taking the former operator of a transport company to court for allegedly underpaying 12 truck drivers more than $143,000.
Sumerdeep Singh, the owner of now defunct company Sumer Bagri, is alleged to have made the underpayments between 2011 and 2014.
The employer watchdog is taking Singh to the Federal Circuit Court and alleges the former business owner also used false records in order to disguise his behaviour.
During the time of the alleged underpayments, Singh’s transport business delivered Woolworths groceries in and around Coffs Harbour through a contract with Linfox Australia.
The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges the drivers were underpaid their minimum hourly rates, along with casual loadings, overtime and penalty rates.
The employer watchdog began investigating the matter after a former employee raised concerns with the Ombudsman.
After the Fair Work Ombudsman began making enquiries with Singh, the former business owner is alleged to have produced false time records.
The records allegedly misstated the hours worked by employees and claim Singh himself performed deliveries when he was in fact overseas, according to the Ombudsman.
The employer watchdog is seeking a court order so that any penalties imposed are paid to Singh’s former employees.
A penalty hearing is listed for April 12 in Sydney, with Singh facing maximum penalties of between $3400 and $10,200 per contravention.
Nicholas Duggal, partner at TressCox Lawyers, told SmartCompany in his experience, courts take a dim view of businesses that attempt to mislead regulators.
“Employers who respond to workplace Ombudsman investigations in that matter, in my view, are much more likely to substantially expose themselves not only to the quantum of the underpayments but also the imposition of penalties at the higher end of the scale,” Duggal says.
“It’s also interesting to note they [The Fair Work Ombudsman] have gone to the length of assessing whether the company was paid enough under it contract to properly pay its workers.”
SmartCompany was unable to contact Singh and Sumer Bagri is no longer in operation.