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Sham Contracts: One person's story

Recently we were able to offer a small touch of advice where we feel we've made a difference. We received an email from a woman subjected to what sounded like a sham contract and where payments owed to her were being denied.

    Dear Mr. Phillips,
    I have recently moved to Sydney from the United States and began working for a marketing and promotions company as a sales rep. I was told I had to register for an ABN number (which the company did for me) in order to work for the company and that I was considered an 'independent contractor' for my term of employment.

    I never saw any ABN forms, never set my hours, never set my own wages, was told to wear a uniform, etc. and was never told that I was to submit any documentation of my sales in order to receive payment.

    For weeks I received pay for the sales I did without knowing exactly how many sales I was getting paid for, etc. When asked, they said my 'pay slips were coming', but they never seemed to materialize. Long story short, I was 'let go' on accusations that were completely false, and have no records of my pay slips, etc from this company to file taxes with.

    Now that I am no longer with them, they are with holding my pay and saying they are going to not only charge me to produce 'invoices' of my payment but they are also taking out a GST tax from the wages they have previously paid out of my next payment.

    I am overseas and feel completely taken advantage of. Furthermore, according to your description of an Independent Contractor, I don't think I actually qualify as one. What are my rights in this situation and where do I go from here? I feel very helpless and overwhelmed, please give me any advice you can.

    Thanks so much for you time and I look forward to hearing from you.
We referred her directly to the complaints section of the Fair Work Ombudsman confirming what she thought should be her course of action. She sent this reply with permission for us to publicise her story:

    Thank you so much for your help, I really appreciate it. I was already thinking about contacting the Ombudsman so you have given me confidence to go ahead. Thank you so much. Its scary to be a 25 yr old female traveling alone and feel like you have no power. I appreciate your help once again, have a great day!
We've asked her to let us know how this develops and we'll report on an outcome when we become aware of it.

There's a lesson for everyone in this story. There are always con artists hanging around in society ready to rip off the vulnerable. At least in the sham contract area we now have an effective institution to chase up complaints. People should use this.

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