Sunglass Hut underpaid hundreds of staff $2.3 million collectively. Its punishment is a paltry $50,000 legal donation.

(Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Sunglass Hut)
  • Sunglass Hut has been found by Fair Work to have underpaid 620 staff across Australia by a collective $2.3 million between 2010 and 2016.
  • In some instances, staff were out as much as $43,000, with the company having only back paid less than $1.5 million to date.
  • Admitting it had breached workplace laws, Sunglass Hut’s parent company was effectively fined just $50,000. It will now need to appoint auditors until 2022 to ensure it pays staff correctly and apologise to those affected.

Sunglass Hut is embroiled in the latest – but undoubtedly not the last – case of wage theft in Australia, after it was caught underpaying 620 staff to the tune of $2.3 million.

The Fair Work Ombudsman announced on Tuesday that it had entered into a court-enforceable undertaking with Luxottica Retail Australia Pty Ltd, which trades as Sunglass Hut.

“Between 2010 and 2016, Sunglass Hut failed to agree in writing with its part-time workers on a regular pattern of working hours and days, in breach of the General Retail Industry Award. The company therefore failed to pay overtime rates for work performed outside regular hours,” a Fair Work release said.

Some individual staff members were underpaid as much as $42,912 by the company over that time period, with systemic underpayment found across more than 250 stores nationwide. Many are still waiting for full reimbursement. Sunglass Hut has back paid less than $1.5 million to date.

“Sunglass Hut breached workplace laws and their conduct falls short of lawful obligations to their employees, and community expectations,” Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said.

“This matter highlights that if employers incorrectly apply award conditions, it can have extensive and expensive consequences across the business for years to come.”

While regulators love to talk tough when it comes to a prosecution, however, the company’s penalty pales in comparison to its crime.

Despite admitting it had breached workplace laws, Sunglass Hunt will pay just $50,000 in a one-off contrition payment to the National Association of Community Legal Centres. That amount is presumably not sufficient to pay the wages of a single lawyer at the centre.

It comes just months after former MasterChef judge George Calombaris was found to have underpaid his staff by $7.8 million and Dominos was found to have underpaid employees for almost five years.

Sunglass Hut will have to open its books to external auditors until 2022 to ensure it stays on the straight and narrow, and send an apology letter to the 620 affected workers.

It’s a small solace for those who have waited almost a decade to be paid for their work.

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