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


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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10 August 2017

‘Deliberately ignoring’ Ombudsman warnings results in record penalty

Author: Alexander Millman & Angela Szczepanski, NRA Legal (Australia)

...Judge Burchardt of the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne found that MHoney Pty Ltd and its director, Mr Abdulrahman Taleb, had deliberately engaged in multiple serious and deliberate contraventions of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) by failing to pay an employee, Mr Jamal Kazemi, in accordance with the General Retail Industry Award 2010 (the Retail Award)...Mr Kazemi...first worked for the respondent employer (a Melbourne fruit market owner) in early 2012...For the first three weeks of his employment, Mr Kazemi was not paid any wages...[H]e was told that his wages were withheld as a ‘bond’ to pay for any damage he may cause in his employment... Mr Kazemi was never allowed to take rest or meal breaks, being told that the store was too busy to allow for them...Mr Kamezi returned to work for the respondent employer in December 2012, under the same terms and conditions of employment.  However, Mr Kazemi was not paid the full amount of his wages under that arrangement during this second period of employment...Mr Kazemi’s complaint to the Ombudsman alleged that he was owed $7,200...This underpayment arose out of multiple breaches of the Retail Award and the Fair Work Act...The breaches included the failure to pay penalty rates, overtime, and superannuation, the failure to pay annual leave on termination of employment, and the failure to keep compliant records...

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8 August 2017

Australia: Federal court awards record $660,000 penalty for underpayment of immigrant worker

Author: Ewin Hannan, The Australian

"Record $660,000 penalty for underpayment of worker," 3 Aug 2017 (subscription only)

A record $660,000 in penalties has been awarded against the former owner of a Melbourne fruit market and his company for not paying an Afghan refugee worker any wages for weeks. Federal Circuit Court judge Philip Burchardt found that the worker, who spoke little English, had been underpaid $25,588 over four months, an “enormous amount for such a short time”. Abdulrahman Taleb, the former owner-operator of the Sunshine Fruit Market in Mel­bourne’s west, was penalised $16,020 and his company Mhoney Pty Ltd penalised $644,000. Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said the $660,020 in penalties was the largest ever achieved as a result of the regulator’s litigation... [also refers to Rubee Enterprises Pty Ltd]

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2 August 2017

Sunshine Fruit Market former owner fined for underpaying Afghan refugee

Author: ABC News (Australia)

The former owner of a Melbourne fruit shop has been handed a record fine for underpaying an Afghan refugee who went weeks without wages.  Fair Work Australia fined Abdulrahman Taleb, the former owner and operator of Sunshine Fruit Market in Sunshine, about $16,000 and his company $644,000 for deliberately ignoring warnings about pay rates and withholding pay.  The Federal Circuit Court found the worker...was paid nothing for a number of weeks in 2012...Fair Work Australia said the worker was underpaid a total of $25,588 for two separate periods in 2012 and 2013.  He was also not provided with the required meal breaks...The punishment was a record for the Fair Work Ombudsman...Judge Burchardt said the business was not lawfully run, with all wages made in cash and the company in breach of a number of workplace regulations...

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28 April 2017

FWO v. Mhoney Pty Ltd & Anor - Penalty Hearing Judgement

Author: Federal circuit court of Australia

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24 November 2016

FWO v Mhoney Pty Ltd & Anor - Liability Hearing Judgement

Author: Federal circuit court of Australia

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