Eighteen young workers at two Cairns food outlets have allegedly been ripped off a total of $13,913.
As a result, the operators of the outlets are facing court action accused of underpaying staff.
The Fair Work Ombudsman began investigating the outlets as a result of receiving complaints from the workers.
Facing the Federal Circuit Court are:
Maurice Arias and his company Mashnicisa Pty Ltd, which operates the Buenavista Kuranda cafe in Kuranda, north-west of Cairns.
Additionally, they formerly operated ‘Donut Joint’ in the Cairns suburb of Smithfield.
Fair Work alleges that Donut Joint underpaid 17 workers a total of $12,045 over a period of three months early last year.
Alleged individual underpayments range from $37 to $6,034.
Furthermore, investigators allege the Donut Joint workers received flat rates that did not cover:
- and public holiday penalty rates,
- overtime rates,
- and evening loadings.
For example, it is alleged that the cafe underpaid a working holiday visa-holder a total of $1,868.
This allegedly happened when the employee was not paid for all hours she worked.
Failed to produce records
Arias and Mashnicisa Pty Ltd allegedly breached laws by failing to comply with a Notice to Produce records.
Fair Work also claims investigators were provided with false records.
In relation to two workers, Fair Work will rely on the new reverse onus of proof laws that require employers to disprove underpayment allegations in Court when they have failed to keep adequate records.
Young workers vulnerable to exploitation
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from WAGETHEFT.net.au said young workers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.
“Many of the workers who were allegedly underpaid in this case were teenagers and unfortunately they are over-represented in wage theft cases,” he said.
“Young people often don’t know their workplace rights, or if they do, they don’t have the confidence to speak up when someone is ripping them off, and greedy bosses take advantage of that.”
Employer facing penalties
Arias faces penalties of up to $12,600 per contravention and Mashnicisa Pty Ltd up to $63,000 per contravention.
The Fair Work Ombudsman is seeking a court order requiring Arias to back-pay the workers.
A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane on 7 February 2020.
Please call our specialist team at WAGETHEFT.net.au on
1300 184 338
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