FWO launches legal action against cleaning company

Workplace regulator launches legal action against Sydney-based cleaning services provider for allegedly underpaying two casual workers.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action in the Federal Circuit Court against Sydney-based cleaning services provider Green Clean (Aust) Pty Ltd, its sole director and manager.

The workplace regulator alleges Green Clean underpaid two casual workers, failed to provide payslips, and gave a Fair Work Inspector false or misleading documents.

The FWO also alleges the manager was involved in underpaying the two casual workers and the payslip contraventions, and that the director was involved in providing false or misleading documents.

The alleged underpayments occurred when two casual employees, who were student visa holders and worked for Green Clean between 19 March and 6 June 2019, were paid wages below their minimum entitlements.

This included underpayments of minimum wages, casual loading, broken shift allowance, penalty rates and overtime that the FWO alleges the employees were entitled to under the Cleaning Services Award 2010. The workers were also allegedly not paid superannuation.

During the investigation, an inspector issued Green Clean a Notice to Produce that required the business to provide specified records or documents, including documents relating to terms of engagement for one of the employees.

The FWO alleges that its director Michael Girowal, on behalf of Green Clean, provided the inspector with emails purportedly sent to the employees on two dates in March and April 2019.

Attached to these emails were ‘independent contractor agreements’ that set out terms and conditions of engagement by Green Clean. The FWO alleges that the two emails were not sent to the employees on those dates, or at all during March or April 2019.

This is the second time the FWO has litigated against Green Clean and its director. In 2016, the regulator obtained penalties totalling $11,340 for failing to comply with a Compliance Notice.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the regulator will take appropriate action to enforce the law during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly if businesses have a history of non-compliance.

“Under the Fair Work Act, Notices to Produce are important information gathering tools used by inspectors to determine whether employees have received their lawful entitlements,” Parker said.

“Where we believe an employer has provided false or misleading information or documents to an inspector, we will take appropriate action. A court can then order the employer to pay penalties in addition to back-paying workers.”

“Businesses that the Fair Work Ombudsman has found repeatedly breaching workplace laws can expect court action. Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact us for assistance,” Parker said.

The FWO is seeking penalties against Green Clean, Girowal and company manager Kareena Colton and an order that they register for the FWO’s “My account” portal and complete each of the employer courses in the FWO’s Online Learning Centre.

According to the FWO, Green Clean is facing maximum penalties of $63,000 per contravention, while Girowal and Colton are each facing maximum penalties of $12,600 per contravention.

Green Clean rectified the underpayments after receiving a contravention letter from the FWO.

In response to the FWO’s claims, Ms Colton told INCLEAN “Green Clean (Aust) Pty Ltd will be seeking a full retraction and apology from the Fair Work Ombudsman”. 

INCLEAN also contacted Mr Girowal but he did not respond prior to publication 

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