The operators of an Italian restaurant have been penalised $72,800 for underpaying a waiter and failing to produce employment records.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court described the wage theft as “deliberate” and emphasised the need for deterrence when imposing the penalties.
Italian restaurant operators penalised
The court penalised Champagne or Wine Pty Ltd, the company behind the ‘Mother Dough’ Italian restaurant in Hawthorn in Melbourne, $52,000.
It also penalised directors Jeffrey Baldassarre and Allison Barnes an additional $10,400 each.
In addition to the penalties, the court ordered Champagne or Wine to fully back-pay the worker, including additional superannuation entitlements.
The wage theft
The 21 year-old employee worked as a causal waiter at Mother Dough between June 2018 and September 2019.
Fair Work commenced an investigation as a result of a wage theft complaint from the affected waiter.
Investigators found that Champagne or Wine had failed to pay the waiter lawful minimum wages and penalty rates for evening and weekend work.
The company then failed to comply with a Compliance Notice requiring it to calculate and back-pay the worker.
The company also failed to produce records.
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Wage theft deliberate
In imposing the penalties, Judge Caroline Kirton described the contraventions as “deliberate”.
She also said that Mr Baldassarre and Ms Barnes displayed a lack of understanding and contrition regarding their actions.
The judge emphasised the need for specific deterrence, as the respondents demonstrated a stubborn determination to not comply with the Compliance Notice and Notice to Produce.
Judge Kirton also highlighted the importance of imposing penalties to deter other employers in the hospitality industry, particularly restaurants, from engaging in similar conduct.
She noted that many employers in this industry tend to hire young and vulnerable staff without proper regard for their legal entitlements.
Hospitality industry rife with wage theft
Meanwhile, industrial advocate Miles Heffernan said the hospitality industry is rife with wage theft.
“With so many casuals working in the industry it is easy for unscrupulous employers to dictate how much they will pay staff,” he said.
Mr Heffernan advised anyone who is not being paid their proper wages and entitlements to contact wagetheft.net.au immediately.
“We know wage theft laws intimately and have extensive experience recovering every last cent owed to our clients,” he said.
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