A greedy and heartless boss stole more than $24,500 from his workers just to see “what he could get away with”.
Steven Chung, former manager of the Oliver Brown chocolate café on the Gold Coast, made the extraordinary admission to Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors.
Heartless boss ripped off 12 workers
The Federal Circuit Court penalised Chung $27,500 for underpaying 12 workers over a period of just nine months in 2015.
The employees washed dishes, took orders and make drinks and desserts at the café.
Chung paid them various flat rates, and as a result, failed to pay legal minimum hourly rates, casual loadings and penalty rates for weekend, late night and public holiday work.
The wage theft totaled $24,575, with one Korean worker paid as little as $10 an hour.
Chung also failed to provide proper pay slips to his workers.
Wage theft ‘deliberate’
Judge Salvatore Vasta described the wage theft as “deliberate”.
He found Chung targeted particularly vulnerable workers to steal from because of their age or visa holder status.
“There doesn’t appear to be any other explanation as to why there were some rates given to some people and other rates to others, except when one looks at the personal and cultural background of the workers,” Judge Vasta said.
“It would seem that a worker on a visa who came from a non-English speaking background was certainly underpaid more than a person who is a permanent resident of this country from an English-speaking background.”
Judge Vasta noted the enormous impact the underpayments had on the workers, describing the proper minimum wage as “quite crucial to their existence”.
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Nothing more than a common thief
Meanwhile, industrial advocate Miles Heffernan described the case as “appalling”.
“Mr Chung is nothing more than a common thief, stealing from people who can’t stick up for themselves,” he said.
“Those who engage in deliberate wage theft should face criminal prosecution, just like any other common thief would.
“The sooner governments around the country toughen up the law in this area, the better.”
Mr Heffernan recently made a submission to the current wage theft inquiry in Queensland.
He is calling for criminal penalties for wage theft, including jail time.
Chung has subsequently back-paid the workers in full.
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