The Fair Work Ombudsman has taken the rare step of seeking an injunction restraining a retail operator from underpaying her employees.

The move – in the Federal Circuit Court – comes after the agency received further complaints from workers.

Deborah Ruth Souris, owned and ran Kenny’s Cardiology and Giftology House specialty card and giftware stores in Melbourne and Brisbane, before selling the Kenny’s Cardiology stores in 2014.

Souris allegedly failed to respond to three compliance notices requesting back-pay for five former employees who had been underpaid a total of $11,187.

If the Fair Work Ombudsman is successful with the injunction, Souris could potentially face contempt of court proceedings for any further underpayments proven in court.

The injunction is being sought in response to concerns that complaints from employees of businesses Souris has been involved in suggest a pattern of non-compliant behaviour.

Since 2007, the Fair Work Ombudsman has been contacted by more than 40 employees concerned about underpayment of wages who worked for companies of which Souris was a director.

It is only the second time the Fair Work Ombudsman has sought such an injunction.

Under the Fair Work Act, business operators must comply with compliance notices issued by Fair Work inspectors or make a court application for a review if they wish to challenge a notice.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says inspectors made extensive efforts to engage with Souris before placing the matter before court.

“Unfortunately, we were not able to secure sufficient co-operation and the alleged underpayments have not been rectified,” she says.

Souris is facing maximum penalties of $5,100 per contravention for three alleged contraventions of workplace laws.

James says the Fair Work Ombudsman is making compliance easier for businesses by continually building on the information available on its website.

“Small businesses often don’t have the benefit of in-house human resources and payroll staff, so we place a high priority on assisting them.

“Equipping people with the information they need helps to create fair and productive workplaces, as well as ensuring a level playing field for all.”