Pulis Plumbing Pty Ltd. has been fined $100,000 and Michael Patrick Pulis has been fined $21,500 in a case of worker exploitation. The company was sued by an employee, who alleges that he was ripped off. When the employee brought the matter to Pulis’ attention, he responded with “F*** off.”
The worker, just 20 years old, was found to be underpaid by $26,882 for work that he had done over a three-month period in 2014. The work, completed in Bendigo, Geelong and Melbourne, was paid at just $12.18 per hour. The rate, which is the rate of an apprentice, was not the proper rate.
The man was found to never be signed up as an apprentice. Instead, the plumber laborer should have received the fair rate of $37.08 per hour and as much as $74.16 an hour for overtime.
Mr. Pulis’ guilty charge and hefty fines come after Judge Grant Riethmuller found that the Fair Work Ombudsman warned Pulis about paying employees as apprentices. Mr. Pulis was told that to pay a worker as an apprentice he had to formally register the employee into apprenticeship.
Judge Riethmuller found that since a warning was given prior to the lawsuit against Pulis, he deliberately underpaid the employee. The employee was found to be paid one-fifth, or just 20%, of what he was entitled to. The employee was also entitled to travel allowances, meal allowances, termination entitlements and leave entitlements.
The worker never received feedback on the work he had done until after three months of working 10 – 12 hour shifts. Mr. Pulis then told the worker that he was not at the second-year apprentice level.
The court found that Mr. Pulis dangled the possibility of an apprenticeship in front of the young man as a lure during the hiring process. Documents show that he had also hired five apprentices in the past and only employed them for under 100 days.
“I have 14 employees, all of whom are trained by me personally,” Bob Oates Plumbing. It’s common practice for new plumbers to go into an apprenticeship and learn under the guidance of a professional.
The judge states that an apprenticeship is supposed to include training and mentorship. Instead, the employee was left to work long hours with no feedback on the work he had done. The lack of appropriate documentation also causes the employee to lose out on time working in an apprenticeship.
Mr. Pulis only paid the employee after legal action was brought against him by the Fair Work Ombudsman. Natalie James, the ombudsman, states that the conduct of Pulis and his company can only be described as deliberate.
A breach of record-keeping and pay slip laws were also uncovered during the lawsuit, along with failure of a Notice to Produce. James also cites the harsh response given to the worker when he asked for the pay he deserved.
Record My Hours, an app recently released by the Fair Work Ombudsman, is designed to help fight against the exploitation of young workers. The app records the amount of time the worker conducts work in the workplace, using geofencing to pinpoint the location of the employee.