A Melbourne plumbing company and its boss have been hit with $121,500 in fines after he underpaid an employee more than $26,000, and sent him a 'remarkable' text message when asked about the man's missing pay.
Michael Patrick Pulis, of Pulis Plumbing Pty Ltd, hired the 20-year-old labourer for a period of three months in 2014, but instead of paying him the $37.08 per hour he was entitled to, Mr Pulis paid him apprentice wages of $12.18 per hour.
The man, whose case was heard in the Federal Circuit Court, was working 10 to 12-hour days, but was not paid the $74.16 hourly overtime wage he was entitled to either.
He also did not receive leave entitlements or meal and travel allowances.
A Fair Work Ombudsman ruling revealed that Mr Pulis told his employee to "f*** off" via text message after he asked when he would be paid.
In his reasons for judgments, Judge Grant Riethmuller said the man was paid only one fifth of his actual salary and was short of $26,882.
At the start of the man's three month 'trial period' in September 2014, both parties understood that the employment was based around a second-year apprenticeship.
Mr Pulis, however, never signed the apprenticeship documents, meaning the employee's time with the company could not be held for credit against the apprenticeship.
"The conduct of the respondents in this case was an outrageous exploitation of a young person," Judge Riethmuller said.
At the end of the trial period in December 2014, the employee received a letter from Mr Pulis stating that his skills were not up to par, and he could either agree to undergo another three-month trial or terminate his employment.
Still being owed for overtime, the worker made several attempts over the next few weeks to chase up his money.
In the 10 weeks leading up to Christmas, he had lived off a salary of $590 per week.
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On Christmas Eve, the employee reached out again to Mr Pluis via text to ask when he should expect his money.
Pluis replied: "Stop doing my head in".
After another push for the money, Pluis wrote: "Seriously, f*** off. When I'm ready."
Judge Riethmuller added that Pulis himself had contacted the Fair Work Info Line to seek advice and was told he would need to pay his employee labourer rates if the apprenticeship was not underway.
"Thus, is it not a case where ignorance of the correct arrangements can be said to form any basis for an excuse," Judge Riethmuller said.
Pulis Plumbing received a fine of $100,00 while Pulis himself was slapped with a $21,500 fine.
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