Australia’s workplace watchdog has taken confectionery group Darrell Lea to court over alleged mistreatment of a number of the company’s casual workers.

The Office of Workplace Services (OWS) has accused Darrell Lea of breaching Australian employment law through contracts with 12 casual workers across three states.

The OWS claims the company “embarked on a deliberate strategy” to apply duress on the workers.

More specifically, Darrell Lea faces allegations of removing penalty rates for working weekends and holidays. Managers at Darrell Lea, the OWS claims, threatened casual workers that their hours of work on weekends and holidays would be cut if they refused to sign a contract drawn up by the company.

OWS director Nicholas Wilson said: “OWS has repeatedly warned employers that workplace law expressly forbids anyone from applying duress to an employee to pressure them into signing an Australian Workplace Agreement.”

Officials at Darrell Lea could not be reached for comment as just-food went to press.