Regional cafe in hot water over alleged underpayment of cook

The operator of a café in Echuca, Victoria is set to face the Federal Circuit Court for alleged underpayments against a former employee.

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, Hospitality 3564 Pty Ltd, which operates Café 3564 and its sole director David Bowman were found to have underpaid a worker who was employed as a cook total of $45,731.29 in minimum wage rates, overtime, penalty rates, meal break penalties and a split-shift allowance under the Restaurant Industry Award 2010.

The worker, from China and aged in his 20s, was a visa-holder at the time and worked between July 2017 and September 2019.

A Fair Work Inspector issued a Compliance Notice to Hospitality 3564 Pty Ltd in October 2020 which required the company to rectify the alleged underpayment in full, and to calculate and backpay additional annual leave and superannuation entitlements believed to be owed to the worker. However, the company, without reasonable excuse, failed to comply with the Compliance Notice.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Kristen Hannah said the regulator would continue to enforce workplace laws in a proportionate manner during the COVID-19 pandemic and take business operators to court where lawful requests are not complied with.

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

Hospitality 3564 Pty Ltd faces a maximum penalty of $33,300 and Bowman faces a maximum penalty of $6600 for failing to comply with the Compliance Notice. The FWO is also seeking a court order for Hospitality 3564 Pty Ltd to take the action required by the Compliance Notice, including rectifying underpayments in full, plus superannuation and interest.

A hearing is scheduled in the Federal Circuit and Family Court in Melbourne on 21 October 2021.