Woolworths & Big W Class Action

Adero Law has filed a class action against retail giant Woolworths regarding underpayments such as unpaid overtime and will ask the court to impose penalties on Woolworths. If you were a salaried employee of Woolworths supermarkets or Big W at any time since 29 November 2013, you may be eligible to join this action.  

On 29 November 2019, Adero Law filed a class action lawsuit against Woolworths  Group on behalf of Mr Cameron Baker and approximately 7,000 other current or former salaried employees of Woolworths Supermarkets and Big W. Adero is instructed that current and former Woolworths employees have suffered underpayments and systemic wage theft during their employment at Woolworths on a far greater scale than the retail giant has disclosed.

 

Woolworths disclosures to date

On 30 October 2019, Woolworths Group announced an internal review found that by its own estimation approximately 5,700 salaried store members working in its Woolworths Supermarkets and Metro stores have not been paid in accordance with the General Retail Industry Award. Woolworths later extended this review to Big W employees and confirmed the estimated total cost of ‘remediation’ to be between $200 million and $300 million which is said to cover all underpayments owing to salaried staff within the Woolworths Group since 2015. The quantum of underpayment on a per-worker, per-year basis has been reported by Woolworths as $5,200.

 

What benefits does the class action afford employees?

Based on 12 months of due diligence investigations, Adero considers that the underpayments disclosed by Woolworths to date substantially understate the wages owed which Adero estimates at $620 million.

This underreporting is likely due to errors in the principles that are applied within the Woolworths self-audit and the fact that Woolworths, in many instances, failed to keep accurate time and attendance records as required by the Fair Work Act 2009 which hinders the identification of overtime hours worked. For this reason, Adero considers the oversight of the Federal Court necessary to accurately settle this matter.

Adero encourages Woolworths to continue their self-audit process and backpay each employee accordingly whilst ensuring each recipient:

  1. Receives a comprehensive explanation of how their backpay was calculated and what entitlements it includes.
  2. Is not required to sign any confidentiality or settlement deeds to obtain entitlements already owed to them.

 

Class action lead claimant

Woolworths is reported to have commenced their internal review in February this year “when a handful of managers questioned why they were paid less than the [less experienced] employees they were managing”. Mr Cameron Baker, a former Replenishment Team Manager at Woolworths Camberwell was one of those handful who spoke up.

Despite receiving a $12,000 increase to his annual salary – Mr Baker did not receive any backpay for his previous five years of employment or an accurate account of underpayments. Mr Baker engaged the services of an industrial agent to perform a wage audit which revealed that Mr Baker is being underpaid at least $20,000 per year given the numerous loadings, penalties and allowances that attach to overtime, and work performed on night-shifts (9pm until 6am), weekends and public holidays.

 

What are the costs associated with the class action?

Adero proposes to charge professional fees on a no-win, no -fee basis for legal work required to obtain civil penalties for effected employees and the recovery of any underpayments that Woolworths do not voluntarily settle directly with affected persons in the manner described above.

Adero encourages anyone who worked for Woolworths at any of their supermarkets across Australia, in a salaried management or supervisory position, from 29 November 2013 to register for this class action. All registrations are confidential, and any employment documentation provided will be used only for the purpose of reviewing individual underpayments.

Frequently Asked Questions

Although circumstances can vary, the general structure of a class action proceeding run by Adero Law is as follows:

  1. A wrongdoing occurs that affects a group of people (claimants) in a similar way.
  2. Adero’s Claim Origination team investigate the wrongdoing by conducting due diligence investigations and liaising with a lead claimant.
  3. The claim is filed in Court.
  4. Pleadings and other Court documents are finalised and filed with the Court.
  5. Claimants have a chance to opt-out of the class action.
  6. Evidence is compiled and the claim is prepared for trial.
  7. If appropriate, mediation or settlement discussions take place between the parties.
  8. If a settlement agreement is not reached, the claim proceeds to trial.
  9. Once a settlement agreement has been reached, claimants are notified, and a timetable put in place for any objections or submissions to be made ahead of a hearing.
  10. A settlement hearing occurs.
  11. If the settlement is approved, a distribution scheme will be implemented under the guidance of the Court.

No. You will not have to personally pay Adero Law any monies unless you are successful, in which case the only money you will pay to Adero Law will come from any successful outcome you receive. You will not have to pay anything more than what you receive.

Yes. Only the lead claimant will be named in the class action. Your name will not be made public unless you have specifically consented.

Whilst individual circumstances will vary, Adero undertakes due diligence in relation to likely damages calculations. The amount of underpayment varies depending on the claim being brought, such as a breach of the enterprise agreement or a breach of the National Employment Standards, and the hourly rates used.

Adero will make every effort to recover all potential underpayments owing to members of a class action (claimants).

Yes. Adero Law will recover its fees from the winnings. Adero law bears the costs and risk of the class action and therefore also collects an uplift on those fees from the winnings. The amount that Adero Law takes from the winnings is supervised by the Court.

Claimants should be aware that the recovery of any underpayment will be subject to terms of the retainer. For more information on the terms of the retainer of any current class action, please request a copy of the retainer by emailing enquiries@aderolaw.com.au or by contacting (02) 6189 1022.

No. Your employer cannot terminate your employment for participating in a class action. This will amount to an adverse action. Moreover, your name will not be disclosed without your express consent. This means that your employer cannot know you joined an action unless you tell them, you tell someone else or instruct us to disclose your name. We do not identify our clients, not even to other members of the action.

No. The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) s 340 prevents employers from treating you differently for exercising your workplace rights. It is unlawful to punish an employee in any way for joining a class action. If you believe this has happened to you, contact us at Adero Law and we will promptly investigate.

No. Both union members and non-members are encouraged to join so that we can win back the entitlements that are owed to everyone.

Yes. Our claimants include current and past workers.

Please contact Adero Law via the “Sign Up Now” to register for the Woolworths and Big W Class Action.

We want to hear your story!

Upon submission, our team of lawyers will be in contact with you to see whether you have a claim.

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