The founder of a now-defunct window manufacturer and current owner of an Australian commercial glass company pleaded guilty on Monday to abusing an apprentice taped to a vacuum lifter.
In a video posted in late 2021, Steven Yousif, former owner of the now-shuttered Melbourne Glass Solutions, can be seen slapping his shirtless apprentice, Ilyas Elkharraz, repeatedly across the face and body as he was tied upside down to the lifter. According to media outlets, the incident occurred at a 2020 Christmas party.
Elkharraz told outlets that Yousif had also abused and threatened him between April 2019 and May 2021. A second apprentice came forward, claiming Yousif threatened to fire him and prevented him from attending technical and further education classes in 2019.
Elkharraz told outlets he felt depressed and suicidal after the incident.
“I felt like a piece of meat about to get cut,” he told A Current Affair, an Australian TV program, in November 2021. “… After a week, I started to get flashbacks. I got nightmares from it. It’s like I was a cow, hanging upside down.”
Following the incident, Elkharraz, who moved to Australia from Morocco, told outlets he quit his job and launched a case with WorkCover, an Australian work compensation insurer.
Yousif pleaded guilty on Monday in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court to failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment. He faces a maximum fine of $87,000. His lawyer urged the magistrate to give a sentence without a conviction.
“He now realizes his conduct was wrong and has no place in the modern workplace,” he said.
The lawyer added Yousif’s second business, Jaden Commercial Windows, would suffer if the court convicted, claiming it would impact Yousif’s ability to bid for certain projects.
“It would clearly impose a serious financial impost upon Jaden … but it would also affect the employees of Jaden … who could potentially be collateral damage here for no fault of their own,” he said.