Legal proceedings have begun against the University of Melbourne after it was found that they took adverse action against two casual academics who tried to claim payment for their work.
It was announced in June that investigations would be undertaken in the university sector after several allegations of underpayments came to light.
At The University of Melbourne they found that one casual academic had adverse action taken against her by the establishment after she tried to claim payment for extra work and made a few complaints to the uni.
Both academics were employed in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education in 2016 and 2017.
According to the Ombudsman- Sandra Parker- the university said they wouldn’t re-employ the two academics if they wanted to claim the extra payment, saying something similar to “if you claim outside your contracted hours, don’t expect work next year”.
Ms Parker said that what took place infringed on the working rights of the casual employees, who were well within their right to claim extra payment for working hours outside of the “anticipated hours”.
“We treat allegations of employers taking action to stop or prevent employees from claiming their lawful entitlements very seriously. Adverse action and coercion directly undermine workplace laws and the ability of employees to exercise their lawful rights,” Ms Parker said.
“We are currently investigating a range of underpayment issues in the universities sector, including failures to pay casual academics for all hours worked.”
She detailed that legal action is being taken to seek penalties and said that under the Fair Work Act that it’s unlawful for an employer to take adverse action against an employee who seeks to exercise their workplace rights.
The maximum penalty per breach will be $66,600 and Ms Parker has said that Fair Work will be seeking compensation for the academics over losses.
Universities won’t be the only industry to be investigated with fast food, restaurants, corporate enterprises, and agriculture also to be reviewed for any wrongdoings.