Sydney café operator to face court over alleged payroll shortfall

cafe, franchise

The Fair Work Ombudsman taking the operators of a Sydney café to court after an investigation prompted by a request for assistance from a former employee about their remuneration.

JOR Trading Pty Ltd, which formerly operated A Little More Café in Randwick – the café is no longer operating – and the company’s sole director, James O’Rourke, are alleged to have paid the employee, who worked on a casual basis at the café as a food and beverage attendant from May 2019 to March 2020, flat rates of $24 or $26 an hour. The FWO alleges these payments were below the casual minimum wage rates and weekend penalty rates owed under the Restaurant Industry Award 2010. The FWO further alleges that the company failed to comply with a Compliance Notice ordering it to calculate and back-pay the worker’s entitlements, and did so without a reasonable excuse.

The action comes after several attempts were made to get the company to comply with the order voluntarily, as per the FWO’s proportionate approach enforcing payroll compliance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker reinforced the fact that her office will continue to enforce workplace laws and take businesses to court when requests for voluntary compliance are ignored.

“Compliance Notices are important tools used by inspectors to deal with apparent contraventions of the Fair Work Act or industrial instruments, most typically Modern Awards,” Parker said.

“Where employers do not respond to or comply with these Notices, we will take appropriate enforcement action to protect employees. A court can order a business to pay penalties for not complying with such a Notice, in addition to back-paying workers as appropriate.”

Parker also urged any employees who believe they are not being paid their full entitlements to contact the FWO for free assistance.

The company faces a maximum potential penalty of $33,300, while Mr O’Rourke could be fined up to $6660. The FWO is will also ask the Court to issue an order forcing the company to comply with its original Compliance Notice and rectify any underpayments in full, plus any superannuation owed and interest accrued. The company and O’Rourke are set to face a directions hearing in the Federal Circuit Court in Sydney on 23 February 2021