Tessa’s story

“Unbundled” advice and assistance helps vulnerable hospitality worker recover $17,000 in unpaid wages.

Tessa worked long hours in a busy restaurant in Melbourne’s CBD. She was highly vulnerable to exploitation: she spoke very limited English, was in Australia on a working visa and did not understand her legal rights.

She was paid $12 per hour for the first few months of her employment. This rate was then increased to $14 per hour, which was still well below the award she was entitled to. She worked for her employer for 10 months in total on a casual basis.

Her visa was due to expire in six weeks and she was concerned about being able to have her matter heard before she had to leave the country. When she came to the Justice Connect, she believed she was owed $13,000 in unpaid entitlements. She rejected an offer of $3,000 by her former employer while the matter was being handled by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Justice Connect provided Tessa with three appointments. During these appointments she was provided with advice about the merits of her claim, and advice about how to conduct her matter.

She also received assistance in drafting court documents, and writing a letter to the Federal Court Registry requesting that she be added to the Small Claims List prior to her visa expiring. With legal help, Tessa worked out that the sum of her unpaid entitlements was actually just over $20,000.

Tessa was granted an earlier hearing in the Court’s Small Claims List. She was also successful in obtaining orders requiring her employer to pay the $20,000 within 21 days. Since returning to her home country her former employer has paid her $17,000. She is currently in contact with an Australian union in order to recover the remaining $3,000.