The owner of a Perth panel beating business has hit back at claims by the Fair Work Ombudsman that he sacked a long-term employee to prevent him from taking sick leave after he was diagnosed with cancer.
Pasquale Minniti, who part-owns and runs panel beating business Hi-Lite Automotive, told SmartCompany he did not sack the employee.
The FWO is bringing a case in the Federal Court against Minniti claiming he dismissed a full-time spray painter – after the employee was diagnosed with cancer – in an effort to prevent him from taking paid personal leave.
The Ombudsman claims that after being diagnosed with cancer in December, 2010, the spray painter obtained the relevant medical certificates and informed Minniti that he proposed to take paid personal leave.
The employee had worked for the business for more than nine years and says he had more than 13 weeks of paid personal leave.
Court documents allege that Minniti responded by trying to pressure the employee to resign on several occasions in January, 2011.
The FWO says that at a meeting in February, 2011 Minniti told the employee he did not believe there was anything wrong with him.
The FWO claims Minniti then became agitated and yelled at the employee in a threatening manner, telling him, “If you don’t get out of here I’m going to throw you out” and then dismissed the employee a short time after the meeting.
The Ombudsman says it is unlawful to take adverse action against an employee, such as dismissing them, to prevent an employee from exercising a workplace right, such as accessing a lawful entitlement to take leave.
Minitti told SmartCompany he planned to defend the allegations made by the FWO.
“I would never sack a guy with cancer,” he says.
“At the end of the day, I am not worried about it as I have not done anything wrong.”
Minitti says he is limited in what he can say because of the court proceedings which are on foot.
“At the end of the day, all the government departments do what they have to do because that is their job,” he says.
“There is a lot more behind this than the FWO is saying.”
Minniti faces maximum penalties of $6,600 per breach and the company through which he operates Hi-Lite Automotive, AJR Nominees, faces maximum penalties of $33,000 per breach.
The FWO is also seeking payment of $15,051 compensation to the employee for the paid personal leave to which he was entitled, wages-in-lieu-of-notice and accrued annual leave entitlements.