Employee threatened and dismissed after seeking underpayments

24 May 2022

A private golf club and its owner are being sued by a former sales representative who alleges she was sacked after requesting back-payment for unpaid commission.

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The facts

The employee is seeking damages and penalties against the golf club and its owner over allegations her employment was terminated after requesting back-payment of $64,000 in commission owing to her.

The employee also claims that prior to her dismissal her employer encouraged her to drop the issue and threatened her by saying, “this will end badly [for] you.”

After requesting the payment, it is alleged that the owner’s son had also tried intimidating the staff member into abandoning the claim.

Before her dismissal, the owner of the business presented the employee with 500 vouchers, each valued at $120. The employee was told she could sell the vouchers and keep the profit, a gesture she accepted as a token of appreciation and in recognition of her low base salary. The vouchers did not, however, offset any alleged underpayment.

The employee claims that between June and September she repeatedly asked the owner, general manager and accountant to reconcile the unpaid sales commissions. After receiving no response, she formalised her request and sent it to the general manager. Soon after, the employee was asked to attend a meeting where she was told her role had been made redundant, effective immediately.

The golf club and its owner are yet to file a defence.

Learnings for business

Businesses should be aware of all the terms and conditions of employment. This includes correctly identifying an industrial instrument which applies, as well as understanding any contractual provisions.

To ensure a business remains compliant it should regularly conduct audits and reviews. If an underpayment is identified it must be remedied immediately.

How we can assist

The Victorian Chamber Workplace Relations Advice Line is on hand to provide support and to help businesses understand their minimum entitlements when employing staff.

In addition, our Workplace Relations Consultants have a wealth of experience conducting workplace wage audits and providing advice and support to business.

Received an underpayment claim? Our Workplace Relations Consultants are on hand to help explain the processes, draft responses and submissions and represent you at the Fair Work Commission.

The Workplace Relations Advice Line offers general advice on a range of workplace issues, including:

  • Award interpretation, classification and minimum entitlements
  • Disciplinary processes, performance management and termination
  • Personal illness and injury
  • Parental leave and flexible working arrangements
  • Redundancy
  • Occupational Health and Safety and WorkCover.

For assistance on any aspect of your employment obligations, please call the Victorian Chamber Workplace Relations Advice Line on (03) 8662 5222.

Zheng Zhang v The Heritage Golf & Country Club & Ors MLG3365/2021

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