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Merivale Group's Unpaid Wages Class Action

Merivale was first founded in 1957 by John and Merivale Hemmes as a hat and bridal wear fashion outlet, before expanding into fashion chain. By the 1990's Merivale had expanded into property and hospitality and grown into a $500 million entity. With John Hemmes' passing in 2015, the company is now headed by the couple's son, Justin Hemmes. Merivale Group now owns approximately 70 pubs, hotels and clubs across Greater Sydney.

The interior of a restaurant, with the text "merivale" foregrounded.

Unpaid Wages Class Action

In 2019 Merivale Group was served a $129 million dollar class action law suit by 14,000 Merivale employees. The workers alleged that between December 2013 to December 2019, they were underpaid or not paid for over time that went above the maximum of 38 hours per week, with some employees claiming they worked 100-hour weeks and were not provided breaks.

While a majority of the class action targets the payment of flat rates to employees, roughly $12 to $18 million of the total claim is on behalf of salaried employees. While these employees were paid for roughly 38 hours each week, according to Adero Law, they were rostered for and worked up to 55 hours per week.

Hemmes initially claimed that the employees were "unlikely to benefit" from the class action.

In 2021 the Federal Court ruled that Merivale's WorkChoices agreement, which limited workers' penalty rates and overtime pay, was not "validly approved in the first place." According to Merivale's defence documents, the company could never have grown to its current scale were it not for the Howard-era workplace agreement utilised which resulted in staff being paid below the modern award for a decade.

Principal for Adero Law, Rory Markham, who is spearheading the class action against Merivale, claimed that the 2010 hospitality industry award should never have been used to to cover Merivale staff in the first place. Merivale Group responded saying that "it cannot be held accountable for decisions a regulator may or may not have made in error."

Sources & Further Reading

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