Large penalty against 7-Eleven operator who exploited staff

The Fair Work Ombudsman has announced that a penalty of more than $400,000 has been imposed against the operators of a 7-Eleven store which exploited its workers.

The penalty follows an investigation and litigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman which found 12 7-Eleven employees in Brisbane had been short-changed over $82,000.

While some of the money was paid-back, the store owner requested his staff to secretly pay back thousands of dollars to him and his wife.

Federal Circuit Court judge Michael Jarrett found the 7-Eleven franchisee had shown "contemptuous disregard" for Australian workplace laws and had sought to deceive the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Handing down his decision, Judge Jarrett imposed record penalties totalling $408,348.
Brisbane businessman Sheng-Chieh Lo was penalised $68,058 and his company, Mai Pty Ltd, a further $340,290.

Judge Jarrett found that Mr Lo and his company had "systematically exploited" employees by implementing "a business model that relied upon a deliberate disregard of the employees' workplace entitlements".

Judge Jarrett described it as "a sophisticated system of data manipulation and false record keeping".

"Mr Lo's contempt is demonstrated by his persistent attempts to deceive the Fair Work inspectors investigating the relevant complaints and his insistence, undertaken in a secretive way, that any amounts he paid to the relevant employees to make good (Mai Pty Ltd's) defaults should be immediately paid back to him," he said.

Judge Jarrett said the penalties "will assist in ensuring other employers in the retail sector, and particularly within 7-Eleven, are compliant with their obligations".

In addition to the penalties and back-pay order, Judge Jarrett imposed an injunction restraining Mr Lo and his company from underpaying workers and from seeking or accepting any back-payment of wages from current or future employees.

Mr Lo's company was also ordered to display an in-store notice informing employees of entitlements and to undertake an audit of its compliance with workplace laws and report the results to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

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