A Bellingen fruit store owner is in court facing allegations he underpaid staff.
A Bellingen fruit store owner is in court facing allegations he underpaid staff.

Bello store taken to court

A POPULAR Bellingen fruit store could be facing stiff penalties after legal action was initiated against it by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Eric Andrew Fuller, the director and part-owner of Fullers Fruit Store on Waterfall Way - operating as E. A. Fuller & Sons Pty Ltd - is before the Federal Magistrates Court in Sydney.

It's alleged a young international student was underpaid almost $14,000 when she worked for six months at a fruit and vegetable store. 

It is claimed the South Korean student, who spoke little English, was paid as little as $6 an hour when she worked at the retail outlet on Waterfall Way. 

The student was one of three females aged between 18 and 20 and two other employees aged in their 30s who were allegedly underpaid more than $82,000 between December, 2006 and August, 2010.

One of the workers was allegedly underpaid a total of $60,827 over the four-years she worked at the store.

Facing court is E. A. Fuller & Sons Pty Ltd and company director and part-owner Eric Andrew Fuller, who manages the store.

The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges the five casual shop assistants were paid flat hourly rates, which led to underpayment of their casual loadings, annual holiday loadings and penalty rates for weekend, overtime and public holiday work.

Court documents allege that sham contracting laws were breached in relation to two workers, who were knowingly misclassified as independent contractors.

The Statement of Claim says the two should have been classified as employees, for reasons including the high degree of control their employer had over their work.

Fair Work inspectors discovered the alleged breaches when they investigated complaints lodged by the employees. Record-keeping contraventions allegedly were also discovered.

Some back-payments have been made to employees but it is alleged that almost $64,000 in outstanding entitlements remains to be paid.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Mark Scully says a decision to prosecute was made because of the significant amount involved and the employer's failure to fully rectify the matter.

Mr Fuller faces maximum penalties of up to $6600 per breach and the company faces maximum penalties of up to $33,000 per breach.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking a Court Order for E. A. Fuller & Sons to rectify the alleged underpayments.



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