A Caltex service station in Sydney's inner west is facing legal action for allegedly falsifying records of the wage rates it paid to overseas workers.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has taken legal action against Peter Dagher and his company Aulion Pty Ltd, which operates the Caltex Five Dock service station.
Mr Dagher faces maximum penalties of up to $3600 per contravention and Aulion Pty Ltd faces penalties of up to $18,000 per contravention.
The Fair Work Ombudsman investigated the outlet last year as part of a national audit of 15 Caltex service stations conducted in response to concerns about underpayments and other non-compliance issues within the Caltex franchisee network.
Six employees at the Five Dock outlet were overseas workers and all but one was an international student.
The Fair Work Ombudsman alleged it found inconsistencies in pay records provided by the service station, and the company failed to issue employees with accurate pay slips within one pay day.
It also alleged it was prevented from completing a full audit to determine whether employees at Caltex Five Dock had been paid their full lawful entitlements.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said legal action was being taken because allegedly false information had been provided, which frustrated the ombudsman's attempts to check whether vulnerable employees had been paid correctly. This was "very serious conduct".
A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit Court in Sydney on December 21.
Ms James said the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 had now come into effect, increasing maximum penalties for conduct including deliberate exploitation of workers and false records.
"The maximum penalties available for some serious conduct that occurs today or in the future are now significantly higher than the penalties available to be imposed in matters such as this one, where the allegedly contravening conduct pre-dates the commencement of the act," she said.
The Fair Work Ombudsman's investigation into the Caltex network is ongoing.
The Ombudsman recently sent an open letter to international students encouraging them to seek free help from the agency.
"We are seeking to raise awareness among international students that in line with an agreement between the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, you can seek our assistance without fear of your visa being cancelled, even if you've worked more hours than you should have under your visa," Ms James said.