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Mhoney Pty Ltd lawsuit (re underpaid immigrant worker in Australia)

In 2012, a refugee from Afghanistan filed a complaint with the Fair Work Omdubsman (FWO) in Australia alleging that he was being underpaid by his employer, Sunshine Fruit Market, a subsidiary of Mhoney Pty Ltd. After investigating his complaint, the FWO filed a civil lawsuit against Mhoney Pty Ltd alleging violations of the Fair Work Act 2009. The court found several labor violations and  awarded the plaintiff unpaid wages and fined the company. 

 

Mr. Syed Jamal Kazemi is a refugee from Afghanistan who relocated to Australia in 2010.  Mr. Kazemi was employed by Sunshine Fruit Market in Melbourne, Australia from February 2012 to April 2012 and from December 2012 to January 2013.  At that time, Sunshine Fruit Market was a subsidiary company of Mhoney Pty Ltd.  In July 2014, Mr. Kazemi filed a complaint with the Fair Work Ombudsman (“FWO”) alleging that he was being underpaid.  Mr. Kazemi had an oral agreement with his employer to work from 6 am to 7 pm seven days a week stocking the store shelves for AUD 10 (USD 7.89) per hour, with a maximum of AUD 120 (USD 94.67) per day.  He was not allowed any breaks, worked public holidays, and did not receive any overtime pay.

After investigating Mr. Kazemi’s complaint, the FWO filed a civil lawsuit against Mhoney Pty Ltd and its director, Mr. Abdulrahman Taleb, alleging violations of the Fair Work Act 2009 and the General Retail Industry Award 2010.  The liability hearing took place in September 2016 in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia in Melbourne.  On November 24, 2016, the court found Mr. Taleb and Mhoney Pty Ltd liable for several labor violations, including failure to pay minimum wage, overtime, or superannuation, failure to provide meal breaks, failure to pay annual leave upon termination, and other record keeping violations.  In March 2017, the penalty hearing was held, and on April 28, 2017 the judgment ordered Mhoney Pty Ltd to pay Mr. Kazemi AUD 25,588.09 (USD 20,186.96) in unpaid wages, and fined the company AUD 644,000 (USD 508,064.48).  The court also found Mr. Taleb was individually liable for the violations, and fined him AUD 16,020 (USD 12,638.50).  This is the largest penalty ever won by the FWO in Australia.  In his penalty judgment, Judge Burchardt stated that the penalty should provide general deterrence to the retail industry, which has a reputation for worker underpayment.

Industry Association:

- “Deliberately Ignoring’ Ombudsman Warnings Results in Record Penalty”, Alexander Millman & Angela Szczepanski, National Retail Association, 10 Aug 2017

News Source:

- “Australia: Federal Court Awards Record $660,000 Penalty for Underpayment of Immigrant Worker”, Business and Human Rights Resource Centre Abstract of article by Ewin Hannan, The Australian, 3 Aug 2017

- “Sunshine Fruit Market Former Owner Fined for Underpaying Afghan Refugee”, ABC News, 2 Aug 2017

Court Documents:

- Penalty Hearing Judgment, Federal Circuit Court of Australia, 28 April 2017

- Liability Hearing Judgment, Federal Circuit Court of Australia, 24 Nov 2016

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