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How the Grinch Stole Wages: Qantas asks Employees to Work Voluntary and Unpaid Shifts during Holiday Season

December 16th, 2018 Victoria Breese

A recently leaked memo from Qantas, an Australian airline, asked employees to consider working voluntary and unpaid shifts during the holiday season. This volunteer initiative has angered employees and customers alike. Many have claimed that asking employees to perform unpaid work during this especially busy travel period is wage theft.

Qantas’ Request

The memo reads: “To support our airport teams at [Sydney International Terminal] over the 2018 peak Christmas travel period, we’re trialing a new volunteer program for our Campus-based people who’d like to lend a hand to the frontline in December and January. We require volunteers to assist at the self-service check-ins and auto bag drop area, bussing gates, concourse arrivals hall and at the transfer desk.” The memo also clearly states that these shifts will be voluntary and unpaid. A Qantas spokesperson later confirmed to the Sydney Morning Herald that volunteers would have other various responsibilities, such as distributing water bottles to travelers and offering directions in the airport. The spokesman also said that the volunteer program “is not about cutting costs, this is about spreading a bit of Christmas cheer during a really busy period.” However, Qantas would still profit from this unpaid labor. Is Qantas robbing its employees at Christmas?

Is This Wage Theft?

The Australian Services Union (ASU) New South Wales branch secretary told the Sydney Morning Herald referred to the airline’s move as a “classic Grinch tale” and akin to “wage theft.” Similar responses have echoed on social media. The crime of wage theft occurs when an employee is not given the wages, salary, or benefits that the law entitles them to have. If Qantas employees are not required to perform this unpaid work and this program is truly voluntary, then it is legal. However, allowing employees to perform unpaid work during this particularly busy travel season raises ethical questions. Even if an employee is willing to volunteer his or her time, is it ethical that these positions are unpaid when Qantas paid their CEO $25 million last year and reported a record profit of $1.6 billion between 2017 and 2018?

Forms of Wage Theft

Wage theft can occur in several ways. For example, wage theft includes a failure to pay minimum wage, failure to pay overtime, misclassification of workers so that they are paid less than required by the law, or not paying a worker for all of their services completed. Wage theft can also occur in instances where there has been an unfair wage deduction that violates a previous employment contract. To resolve wage theft claims, workers can sue their employer in order to get back their rightful earnings.

Seek Legal Assistance Today

Wage theft is illegal. Don’t let the Grinch steal your wages this holiday season. If you are dealing with unpaid wages at work, seek legal assistance today. The Working Solutions Law Firm, located in New York City, can assist you. Contact us today at (646) 430-7930 to schedule a free case evaluation and receive experienced legal counsel.