Mehtaab Group slapped with $57,000 in penalties for exploiting Indian national

The victim, an Indian international student, had been employed by Mehtaab Group for nearly a year.

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Melbourne-based painting company Mehtaab Group Pty Ltd, trading as Paint Splash, and its sole director and shareholder, Vikramjeet Singh Khalsa, have been hit with substantial penalties totalling over $57,000 by the Fair Work Ombudsman. The Federal Circuit and Family Court imposed the penalties for breaching the Fair Work Act and failing to comply with a Fair Work Commission order and a Compliance Notice, resulting in the mistreatment of a vulnerable migrant worker, an Indian national.

The Court found Mehtaab Group guilty of contravening the Fair Work Act by failing to adhere to a Fair Work Commission order, which mandated the payment of $21,491.17 in compensation to the unfairly dismissed the worker who is an Indian national on student visa. Additionally, the company was found to have violated a Fair Work Ombudsman Compliance Notice by neglecting to fulfil outstanding annual leave entitlements owed to the same worker.

As a consequence of these breaches, the Court imposed a penalty of $47,952 on Mehtaab Group and a $9,590.04 fine on its director, Vikramjeet Singh Khalsa, who was deemed to have been involved in both instances of non-compliance.

The victim, an Indian international student, had been employed by Mehtaab Group for nearly a year. In addition to the penalties, the Court has ordered the company to pay the outstanding unfair dismissal compensation, as well as superannuation. Furthermore, Mehtaab Group is required to calculate and retroactively reimburse the employee for the accrued annual leave entitlements that had been withheld.

Sandra Parker, the Fair Work Ombudsman, emphasized the significance of compliance with Fair Work Commission orders and Compliance Notices in maintaining the integrity of the workplace relations system. Parker stated, “The Fair Work Ombudsman is prepared to take legal action to ensure that employees receive all compensation and entitlements they are lawfully entitled to.”

The investigation into this matter was initiated following a request for assistance from the affected worker. In June 2021, the Fair Work Commission had already determined that Mehtaab Group had unfairly dismissed the employee and ordered the company to pay the compensation within two weeks. However, the company failed to comply with this directive.

Efforts by the Fair Work Ombudsman to resolve the issue through voluntary compliance were unsuccessful. Consequently, in September 2021, a Compliance Notice was issued, requiring Mehtaab Group to calculate and rectify any outstanding annual leave entitlements owed to the worker. The company also failed to meet this obligation, leading to legal action and subsequent penalties.

The Fair Work Ombudsman highlighted that this case is part of a larger effort to protect the rights of vulnerable workers. Over the past five financial years, the regulator has pursued 126 litigations involving visa-holder workers, resulting in court-ordered penalties amounting to more than $13.4 million.

Employees who have concerns about their pay or entitlements are encouraged to contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for free advice and assistance.

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