The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against an Adelaide nail salon for allegedly underpaying two young migrant workers by more than $50,000 – and later providing false records.
The FWO alleges Minh Gia Le and his company (which traded as ProfessioNail, Global Nail and Beauty and/or House of Polish Central) underpaid two nail technicians a total of $53,021 between November 2014 and March 2016.
The employees, aged 20 and 21 at the time, were both Filipino migrants.
After one of the employees lodged a request for assistance, Fair Work inspectors found that the employees were paid less than the applicable minimum hourly rates ($18.97 to $19.44 for normal hours and $23.71 to $38.88 for weekend work) in the Hair and Beauty Industry Award 2010.
According to the FWO, Le and his company failed to apply loadings and also breached workplace laws by knowingly providing inspectors with false and misleading records that significantly understated the hours the employees had worked to create the appearance that they had been paid much higher rates.
The employees were allegedly underpaid $35,680 and $17,339 respectively.
Although the alleged underpayments were rectified in full late last year, FWO Natalie James says litigation has been commenced due to the alleged serious exploitation of vulnerable migrant workers and due to the provision of false or misleading records to Fair Work Inspectors.
The FWO also issued Le a Letter of Caution in 2015 after a proactive audit of his salon found that an employee had allegedly been underpaid more than $2800.
“We treat cases involving underpayment of migrant workers particularly seriously because we are conscious they can be vulnerable if they lack awareness of their entitlements and are reluctant to complain,” James said.
Le faces maximum penalties of up to $10,800 per contravention while the company faces maximum penalties of up to $54,000 per contravention.
James says it is also of concern that Le, a Vietnamese migrant, had allegedly been involved in exploiting two migrant workers.
“I am increasingly concerned about the number of employers from culturally and ethnically diverse backgrounds who are exploiting workers from within their own or other ethnic communities,” she said.
“This case is another chance to make it clear that the lawful obligations to pay minimum rates apply to all employees – and employers – in Australia and they are not negotiable.
“I understand there are cultural challenges and vastly different laws in other parts of the world, but it is incumbent on all businesses operating in Australia to understand and apply Australian laws.”
In January, the FWO commenced legal action against the owner of another nail salon in Adelaide (Albert Tran, owner of Citi Nails & Beauty and his company Hongyen Pty Ltd) alleging more than $7000 in underpayment of five employees.