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Massive fine for medical practice after blatant discrimination

After underpaying a young, vision-impaired worker more than $20,000 because of her disability, a Sydney medical practice and two directors were fined
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Massive fine for medical practice after blatant discrimination

Massive fine for medical practice after blatant discrimination

7 July 2016

After underpaying a young, vision-impaired worker more than $20,000 because of her disability, a Sydney medical practice and two directors were fined $123,690 in total – despite repeated warnings to correct the situation.

In light of the above, the Fair Work Ombudsman took legal action against the company and its directors. The Court found they had breached disability discrimination provisions of the Fair Work Act when the part-time receptionist was underpaid $20,847 between 2009 and 2012, because of her disability.

What went wrong

One can only speculate what went was going through the minds of the people involved here, but we do know the employee was young and vulnerable, and had initially been a patient of the practice when she was offered work there. 

After a month of unpaid training, the employee was paid a flat rate of $7-$8 an hour from February, 2010 to February, 2012, which was below the $10-$17 an hour she should have been paid.

To make matters worse, the Court learned the company received a subsidy for the employee through the Disabled Australian Apprentice Wage Support program, which specifically required the worker to be paid Award rates.

The employee knew she was not receiving her full entitlements and raised the matter on several occasions directly with her employer, who refused to correct the situation.

Upon learning of the matter, Fair Work Inspectors asked the employer to voluntarily fix the underpayment, but they refused, only paying the employee the unpaid wages after the commencement of legal action.

Feeling the full force of the Fair Work Commission

After lodging a complaint with the Fair Work Ombudsman, the matter went to court and, as a result of the employer’s discriminatory behaviour and refusal to correct the underpayment, they paid the maximum penalty.

  1. A fine of $88,870 was issued to Rocky Holdings Pty Ltd, which operates ‘Medical Centre 2000’ at Liverpool.

  2. Its two directors and managers, brothers Dr Ahmed Mohamed and Dr Ismail Mohamed, were fined $17,410 each. 

  3. On top of her entitled back-pay, the employee was also paid $5,000 for non-economic loss.

Lessons for other healthcare and social services employers

It is unlawful to discriminate against employees on the grounds of pregnancy, race, colour, sex, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer responsibilities, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin. 

Struggling to keep on top of employee legalities? Workplace Assured is the complete workplace relations solution that offers unlimited advice, an assessment of your current compliance, legal advice and representation in the event of a Fair Work claim and much more. Call us on 1300 575 394.

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