The operators of an Italian restaurant in Melbourne face penalties of more than $100,000 after being taken to court by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) over the alleged underpayment of a casual worker.
The FWO has confirmed that it has commenced legal action in the Federal Circuit Court against the owners.
Facing court is Champagne or Wine Pty Ltd, which operates the ‘Mother Dough’ Italian restaurant in the suburb of Hawthorn, and company directors Jeffrey Baldassarre and Allison Barnes.
Complaint received from a former casual employee
Australia’s work practices regulator commenced its investigation after receiving a request for assistance from an employee who worked as a waiter on a casual basis at the restaurant between June 2018 and September 2019. At the time he was aged 21 to 22.
A Fair Work Inspector issued a Compliance Notice to Champagne or Wine Pty Ltd in July 2020 after forming a belief the employee was underpaid the casual minimum wage and penalty rates for evening and weekend work he was entitled to under the Restaurant Industry Award 2010.
The FWO alleges the company, without reasonable excuse, failed to comply with the Compliance Notice issued by the FWO, which required it to calculate and back-pay the worker’s entitlements.
It is also alleged the company failed to comply with a Notice to Produce Records issued by the Fair Work Ombudsman during its investigation. The FWO alleges Baldassarre and Barnes were involved in the contraventions.
Regulator will continue to enforce the workplace laws
In line with its proportionate approach to regulation during the Covid-19 pandemic, the FWO first attempted to secure voluntary compliance before commencing the legal action.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the regulator would continue to enforce workplace laws and take businesses to court where lawful requests are not complied with.
“Under the Fair Work Act, Compliance Notices are important tools used by inspectors if they form a belief that an employer has breached workplace laws,” Parker said.
“Where employers do not comply with our requests, we will take appropriate action to protect employees. A court can order a business to pay penalties in addition to back-paying workers.”
Company and its operators now face various penalties
The company Champagne or Wine Pty Ltd faces a maximum penalty of $33,300 for the alleged Compliance Notice contravention and a penalty of up to $63,000 for allegedly failing to comply with the Notice to Produce.
Baldassarre and Barnes each face a maximum penalty of $6,660 for the alleged Compliance Notice contravention and a penalty of up to $12,600 for the alleged Notice to Produce contravention.
The regulator is also seeking a court order for the company to take the action required by the Compliance Notice, which includes calculating and rectifying any underpayments in full, plus superannuation and interest.
A directions hearing has been listed in the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne on 23 April.