Real Estate Fined for Sham Contracting

A Sydney real estate company and its director have been fined almost $30,000 for underpaying a salesperson more than $20,000 as a result of sham contracting.

The penalty was handed down in the Federal Magistrates Court.

Federal Magistrate Shenagh Barnes found the company had treated the female salesperson “recklessly” by appointing her as an independent contractor instead of an employee.

The woman had recently moved from Singapore and subsequently had no experience in the Australian real estate industry.

The Court heard that the woman received just one payment of $1414.20 for working an average of 40 hours per week from 23 March 2007 until her employment was terminated on 27 September 2007.

She was underpaid more than $20,000 of which the company had only backpaid $5000 in October 2009.

Federal Magistrate Barnes ordered the employer to repay the outstanding $15,119 plus interest of $3104.

In handing down her 44-page decision, Federal Magistrate Barnes said it had been submitted that the real estate industry in New South Wales often paid individuals on a commission basis, but accepted that a message should be sent to the community that employees should be correctly identified and appropriately remunerated. Real estate salespeople should not be paid on a commission-only basis if not licensed.

Pattern in Pedestrian Injuries

An increase in pedestrian injuries at zebra and traffic light crossings in Queensland has been connected to drink driving and drivers not paying attention to the road.

A 30-year-old man was recently struck by a vehicle when he was waiting to cross at pedestrian lights during his lunch break in Brisbane’s west.

The vehicle was speeding and when the driver swerved to miss another vehicle, it mounted the footpath and collided with the man waiting at the lights.

The man suffered injuries to his neck, hip and ankle, forcing him to take time off work.

Another similar incident occurred at Annerley in Brisbane’s south when an 80-year-old woman was hit by a vehicle. The driver left the scene and police are still investigating.

A man in Townsville was also struck at a zebra crossing by a driver who was found to be more than two times over the legal blood alcohol limit.

More injured pedestrians have lodged personal injury claims leading to a call for pedestrians to be more alert and not to just assume it is safe to cross a road.

Making Wills and Leaving Bequests

Charities are attempting to stay engaged with people throughout their lives in order to maintain one of their major sources of funding – bequests (leaving money to charity in a will).

The website, Include a Charity, estimates that more than 10,000 bequests are left to Australian charities each year and says that bequests are often responsible for keeping charities operating.

Research group Givewell found that bequest fundraising accounted for 18 percent of charity income in Australia last year.

However, it is estimated that around 40 percent of Australians have not even made a will.

Anyone over the age of 18 of sound mind, memory and understanding can make a will and, although wills can be drawn up by anyone, they must meet strict conditions or may not be valid.

A will can deal with all kinds of property including real estate, personal property such as jewellery, cars, boats, bank accounts and shares, and insurance and superannuation policies unless a beneficiary is named in the policy. 

Workplace Bullying on the Rise

Solicitors have experienced an increase in inquiries from Queenslanders about workplace bullying. These people are often experiencing high levels of stress or depression. In addition to the dramatic impact on employees’ health, the Productivity Commission released a report in April this year which estimated that stress-related absenteeism and presenteeism were directly costing Australian employers around $10.1 billion per year, and the cost to the economy was around $14.8 billion per year.

Cases like that of Brodie Panlock, a 19-year-old woman who committed suicide after being subjected to bullying by her workmates at a Melbourne café in September 2006, are becoming more common. Ms Panlock’s colleagues were fined a total of $335,000 when they pled guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates Court and her father called for a change in the law to include a custodial sentence for offenders.

There is often confusion around what exactly constitutes workplace harassment according to Australian law. The Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney-General defines workplace harassment as behavior, other than sexual harassment, that “is repeated, unwelcome and unsolicited, the person [subject to the behavior] considers to be offensive, intimidating, humiliating or threatening, and that a reasonable person would consider to be offensive, humiliating, intimidating or threatening”.

It is also a misconception that workplace harassment can only be committed by a single co-worker or employer. Workplace Health and Safety Queensland says that it can also be committed by a group of co-workers, a client, or a member of the public.