For many teenagers a casual job is a way to earn some spending money and get a taste of working, but for one Sunbury teen, it has resulted in alleged dismissal due to illness, underpayment and a trip to court.
Brown Cow Cafe, located on Vineyard Road in Sunbury, was ordered to pay $7,320.08 in compensation and backpay after the Federal Circuit Court found it took adverse action against the teenage worker for failing to attend work due to a chest infection.
The court also found the cafe had failed to pay the minimum outstanding wages owed to the teen.
According to court documents, the teen started working at the cafe on December 22, 2021, when he was 16 as a level one beverage attendant.
On May 7, 2022, while working on a Saturday the teen sent a text to Hao Nick Truong that he was beginning to feel unwell and asked to work two hours less the following day, however Mr Truong didn’t respond.
When the teen texted Mr Truong the next day that he was too sick to attend his shift, Mr Truong requested he attend work, and following this exchange removed him from the staff Facebook messenger group.
The teen then found out, through screenshots that were sent to him, that Mr Truong sent a message to the chat that the teen would no longer be working at the cafe.
In handing down her decision, Deputy Chief Judge Patrizia Mercuri said these actions show that the teen had been dismissed.
“In removing the [teen from the] Facebook messenger group by which shifts were allocated… and by sending a message to the Facebook group advising that [he] would no longer be working at the cafe, [showed he was] dismissed,” Judge Mercuri said.
The teen also obtained a medical certificate on May 9, 2022, confirming he had a chest infection and that he would be unable to work.
Judge Mercuri said she accepted the teen’s evidence that he felt “terrible, depressed and humiliated” when he found out that he had lost his job.
“To add insult to injury, the hurt and humiliation the applicant suffered, was compounded by the manner in which his dismissal was communicated to the rest of the team,” Judge Mercuri said.
The court also found the cafe failed to pay the correct minimum wage, when the teen was paid as a 16-year-old when working on Easter Saturday and Sunday last year, despite turning 17 more than four days earlier.
Judge Mercuri said there had been a “history of non-compliance by the respondents in this matter“.
“Given the history of this matter and the respondents’ repeated failure to engage in the proceeding at all, both of these factors come into play,” she said.
Costs were to be decided at a later date.