A temporary visa holder has won a case against her former employer in a groundbreaking ruling that could pave the way for other immigrants.
A temporary visa holder exploited by her boss because of her immigration status has called on other vulnerable workers to speak out after winning a court ruling against her former employer.
Indian chef Ninumol Abraham was found to have been discriminated against based on her immigration status during her employment at Canberra Indian restaurant Binnys Kathitto.
Indian chef Ninumol Abraham was found to have been discriminated against based on her immigration status during her employment at Canberra Indian restaurant Binnys Kathitto. The restaurant was owned by Rose Thomas, who was helped by her husband Binny Babu.
The ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard Ms Abraham was forced to work up to 70-hour weeks and had her wages mishandled through a “cash back” scheme. Former employees Shojin Thomas (centre) and Ninumol Abraham are seen near the Indian Restaurant Binny’s Kathitto in Canberra. These migrant workers say they were told they would have to ‘buy’ leave.
The tribunal was told the Indian national was scared that if she didn’t comply with her boss’s demands, she could lose her job or her visa could be cancelled.
“I would say to people who are suffering like this come forward, no one needs to suffer like this – it’s like modern slavery so please come to tell the public your story,” Ms Abraham told SBS News. Ms Abraham, who started her job at the Canberra restaurant in January 2018, told the tribunal she was required to pay Mr Babu $100 for each day of leave she took.
The mother-of-two also told the tribunal she was asked to pay Mr Babu $511.40 in cash each fortnight for what she thought were tax requirements. “It was so emotional – I couldn’t look after my kids – [I had] no family life,” Ms Abraham said. “I was fearing for my kids’ future and my future.”
Ms Thomas and Mr Babu told the tribunal that Ms Abraham was a poor employee and denied Ms Abraham had been discriminated against because of her immigration status. “Moreover, we had concerns that her visa would be cancelled if her employment was terminated and our decision would also affect [her] whole family,” Ms Thomas told the tribunal.
The tribunal found that Mr Babu threatened Ms Abraham on a number of occasions.
“I am satisfied that on a number of occasions Mr Babu did threaten the applicant, that unless she complied with his demands, she would be sacked with the consequence that her 457 visa would be cancelled,” tribunal member Dominic Mulligan wrote in his reasons.
“I accept that the applicant was scared that if she did not comply with those demands she would be fired, and the respondent or Mr Babu would take steps to have her 457 visa cancelled by the immigration authorities,” he added.
The tribunal found Ms Abraham was discriminated against because she was required to work hours beyond her contract without compensation. The tribunal has ordered that the employer must not repeat their treatment of employees and must pay Ms Abraham $17,940 for lost income.
United Workers Union organiser Erryn Cresshull said the ruling was a groundbreaking case. “So many workers are abused by their employers because of their visa status and it’s really hard for those people to get any justice and to make real change,” she said.
“We really hope it signals to people that they can seek help and they can pursue their rights and there is help out there.” Ms Abraham said she was relieved the ordeal was over and her case has been successful.
“I don’t want to remember those days in my life. It was so difficult,” she said. “[But] now I am so happy I got justice.”
Refugee advocacy groups are lobbying the federal government to do more to support temporary migrants.