Melbourne food company faces prosecution for alleged underpayments

Posted by James Ferre on 13th August 2009

The federal workplace watchdog has launched a prosecution against the operators of a Melbourne food company, alleging they underpaid a delivery truck driver more than $32,000 over several years.The Fair Work Ombudsman is prosecuting Olara Pty Ltd and Exofun Pty Ltd, which have traded as Exclusive Food Houses in Moorabbin and been involved in importing and distributing specialist foods.

The Agency is also prosecuting a director of both companies, Harry Friedman of North Caulfield, alleging he was involved in the underpayment.

The delivery truck driver was employed by Olara from 1983 until June 2008 and by Exofun from July to October, 2008.

In prosecution documents lodged in the Magistrates’ Court in Melbourne, the Fair Work Ombudsman alleges Olara underpaid the man a total of $30,462 between 2003 and 2008 as a result of paying him a flat rate of $11.17 for all hours he worked and took as leave, when he should have been paid $12.63 to $15.03 an hour.

The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges Exofun underpaid the man a total of $1798 from June to October, 2008 as a result of paying him a flat rate of $11.25 for all hours he worked and took as leave, when he should have been paid $15.60.

While the driver has been back-paid the money that was owed to him as a result of the Fair Work Ombudsman investigation, Fair Work Ombudsman Executive Director Michael Campbell said legal action was still warranted.

“This was a very large alleged underpayment of a low-paid worker and we are asking the Court to impose a penalty both as a specific deterrence to those involved and as a general deterrent to others,” Mr Campbell said.

Olara, Exofun and Mr Friedman allegedly committed multiple breaches of workplace laws. The maximum potential penalty per breach of workplace law is $33,000 for the companies and $6600 for the individuals.