Court date served to souvlaki restaurants over alleged underpayments

hearing, dispute resolution, labour-hire

The operators of three Souvlaki GR restaurants in Melbourne are set to face court for alleged underpayments.

Facing court are Souvlaki GR Ormond Pty Ltd and Souvlaki GR Thornbury Pty Ltd – which operate Souvlaki GR restaurants in Ormond and Thornbury, respectively – and GR St Kilda Pty Ltd, which formerly operated a Souvlaki GR restaurant in St Kilda, and the sole director of each of the companies, Despina Karagiozis.

The Fair Work Ombudsman began investigating the operators after receiving requests for assistance from five workers who worked at the three Souvlaki GR restaurants for various periods between August 2020 and March 2021. One of the workers was employed as a cook and the other four were employed as food and beverage attendants. Two were aged 18 when they commenced working at GR Souvlaki, one was 19 and another was 23.

A Fair Work Inspector issued Compliance Notices to GR St Kilda Pty Ltd, Souvlaki GR Ormond Pty Ltd and Souvlaki GR Thornbury Pty Ltd in October 2021 after having determined that the workers had been underpaid their minimum wage rates, overtime rates, weekend and public holiday penalty rates, annual leave entitlements and payment in lieu of notice, as required under the Restaurant Industry Award 2020 and the National Employment Standards.

However, the three companies, including Karagiozis, without reasonable excuse, have allededly failed to comply with the Compliance Notices, which required them to calculate and back-pay the workers’ entitlements.

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.

“Where employers do not comply, we will take appropriate action to protect employees,” Parker said. “A court can order a business to pay penalties in addition to back-paying workers.”

GR St Kilda Pty Ltd, Souvlaki GR Ormond Pty Ltd and Souvlaki GR Thornbury Pty Ltd each face a penalty of up to $33,300 for allegedly failing to comply with a Compliance Notice. In addition, Karagiozis faces penalties of up to $6660 per breach for her alleged involvement in failing to comply with the notices. The FWO is also seeking orders for the companies to comply with the Compliance Notices, which include the calculation and rectification of the alleged underpayments in full, plus superannuation and interest.

A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit and Family Court in Melbourne on 8 August 2022.