The Fair Work Ombudsman won a total of $ 309,750 in court penalties in response to a migrant employee underpaid nearly $ 70,000 and forged records at a Chinese restaurant in Melbourne.
The Federal Circuit Court fined China Bar Buffet (Epping) Pty Ltd, which operated the China Bar Signature restaurant and the China Bar Express fast food restaurant in Epping, $ 249,000.
The sanction was imposed in response to the company breaking workplace laws by underpaying a Chinese visa holder $ 69,321 and knowingly creating and maintaining false records and providing them to the mediator for fair work during his investigation.
In addition, the sole director of the company, Siak Kong Chi, was penalized with $ 41,250 and accountant Ying Lee, of the “China Bar Group”, $ 19,500, for their involvement in some of the company’s tickets. .
The company, the manager and the accountant have made full confessions to the contraventions alleged against them, and the parties have mutually agreed on a range of penalties for the contraventions admitted. The Fair Work ombudsman also argued in court that the significant penalties were appropriate due to the serious nature of the tickets and because the restaurant industry has historically been known to be notorious for underpaying employees, in especially vulnerable migrant workers.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said improving workplace compliance in the fast food, restaurant and catering industry and protecting migrant workers remain priorities for the FWO.
“The sanctions in this case send a clear message that paying low flat rates that undermine reward rights and trying to mislead Fair Work inspectors is totally unacceptable conduct that will not be tolerated.”
“We take issues relating to migrant workers particularly seriously and we are also focused on taking action to improve compliance in the restaurant and fast food industry.”
“All workers in Australia have the same rights at work, regardless of their citizenship or visa status, and we urge all concerned workers to contact us,” Ms. Parker said.
Fair labor inspectors investigated after the employee contacted the FWO. Inspectors found that the employee regularly worked 60 hours per week as a cook at the China Bar Signature restaurant, but was only paid between $ 700 and $ 1,060 per week.
This resulted in underpayment of regular hourly rates, overtime rates, and weekend and statutory holiday rates to which the employee was entitled under the 2010 Restaurant Industry Award. on annual leave, superannuation and a shift allowance were also underpaid.
The amount of the underpayment was not fully rectified by the company until after FWO took legal action.
Inspectors also received false records showing inaccurate working hours and payments made to the employee and other employees of the China Bar Express fast food restaurant.
Judge Patrizia Mercuri said she gave little weight to the arguments of the company, Mr Chi and Ms Li that they did not fully understand their obligations under labor laws and that bad English of Mr. Chi was creating difficulties.
“(The company) not only did not provide the employee with his rights and did not keep accurate records that would have facilitated the investigation phase, but in fact kept records that (Mr. Chi) , as the guiding spirit and the will of (the company), knew they were false and misleading, ”Judge Mercuri said.
Judge Mercuri noted that Mr. Chi remained involved in various food and beverage businesses.