Hairdressing salons in hot water for discrimination, underpayments

Hairdressing salons are being urged to review their workplace obligations after the Fair Work Ombudsman fined a Perth salon for discriminating against a disabled, pregnant employee.

 

Sebastion Pty Ltd, trading as Hair Liaison in the Perth suburb of Leeming, has been forced to pay a former employee $2,000 compensation following an investigation by the Ombudsman.

 

The Ombudsman found the salon discriminated against the woman because of her physical disability and pregnancy.

 

The woman, now aged 26, commenced work with the business in September 2007. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in late 2009.

 

After suffering two MS-related episodes at work and taking a number of sick days, the company’s secretary and director, Julia Turner, spoke to her about changing her employment status from full-time to casual.

 

At the time, the woman held the title of assistant manager and senior hair stylist.

 

The change did not eventuate. But in April 2011 – after the woman advised Turner she was pregnant – she was told words to the effect: “Well, I was thinking about putting you casual”.

 

Turner gave the woman a letter advising that her employment status would change from full-time to casual at a reduced hourly rate, and that she would no longer be the assistant manager.

 

At the end of May 2011, after taking more time off work, during which time Hair Liaison employed another casual hairdresser, Turner told the woman there was “no work available and it was time to look for work elsewhere”.

 

Under the Fair Work Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against employees and prospective employees on the grounds of pregnancy, race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer responsibilities, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.

 

Discriminatory behaviour can include refusing to employ, promote or train a worker, dismissing an employee, threatening to dismiss an employee or denying training/promotion opportunities.

 

In addition to paying the woman $2,000 compensation, Hair Liaison has agreed to apologise to her.

 

Turner has also agreed to seek specialist workplace relations advice at her own expense each year for the next three years to ensure future compliance with workplace laws.

 

Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said in a statement every employee has the right to work without fear of discrimination, urging employers to review their workplace obligations.

 

“Employers who have fair and transparent selection processes for recruitment, promotion, training and other business systems will be well placed to cultivate fair workplaces free of discrimination,” he said.

 

Meanwhile, the Ombudsman has launched a prosecution against the operators of two Melbourne hairdressing salons, alleging two apprentices were underpaid more than $9,000.

 

Facing court is Camberwell man Craig Francis Lane, who owns the Hennesy Lane Hair Design salons at Kingsway, Glen Waverley and the Rowville Lakes Shopping Centre on Kelletts Road.

 

Also facing court is Lane’s company Hennesy Lane Hair Design Pty Ltd, through which he operates the two salons.

 

The Ombudsman alleges two apprentice hairdressers at the salons were underpaid a total of $9,669 between 2007 and 2011.

 

The employees were allegedly not paid for training sessions they were required to attend. The training sessions were allegedly not part of the apprenticeship course.

 

The apprentices were allegedly also variously underpaid wages, overtime, weekend penalty rates, annual leave entitlements, public holiday pay, a tool allowance and a late-night meal allowance to the total of $5263 and $4406 respectively.

 

The alleged underpayments were discovered when the Ombudsman investigated complaints lodged by the employees.

 

Laws relating to keeping employment records were allegedly also breached. The majority of the underpayments have now been rectified.

 

The Ombudsman will claim in court that Lane, in his involvement in Hennessy Lane Hair Design Pty Ltd, committed several breaches of workplace law.

 

He faces maximum penalties of up to $6,600 per breach and his company faces maximum penalties of up to $33,000 per breach.

 

The Ombudsman is also seeking a Court Order for the company to fully rectify the alleged underpayment, with a directions hearing listed for October.

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