As more than 380 workers at a Queensland mushroom farm were ripped off to the tune of $650,000 at a farm called Marland Mushrooms in 2016, the Fair Work Ombudsman is trying to take a legal challenge involving hundreds of workers being underpaid $650,000 to the highest court in Australia.
When the labour hire company which employed the workers at the farm, HRS Country, went into liquidation the Ombudsman's office pursued legal action over underpayment by its director, Tao Hu. They also pursued the owner of the farm, Troy Marland, as an accessory.
In July 2018 the Federal Court found employees had been underpaid. But the court rejected the Ombudsman's submissions about how to calculate underpayments for the pieceworkers -- who are paid by the amount they pick. The court also dismissed the Ombudsman's allegations that Marland Mushrooms and Mr Marland were accessories in the underpayments.
The Ombudsman appealed the decision about the underpayments and Mr Marland being an accessory to the Full Federal Court. This resulted in an inconclusive split decision.
Now the Ombudsman is seeking permission to appeal to the High Court over the issue. The Ombudsman's office says the decision has been made because of "the public importance and the potential impact this matter has for the protections of vulnerable pieceworkers".
"As well as significant legal questions regarding accessorial liability."