Former restaurant operators penalised $168,000 for underpaying worker

The former operators of a restaurant in Cairns have been penalised a total of $168,924 for underpaying a migrant worker more than $33,000, following legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Poisson Pty Ltd formerly operated the Mature Yogo restaurant at “The Pier” precinct and has been penalised $142,144 in the Federal Circuit Court. Company director and former manager Miyuki Yogo has been penalised a further $26,780.

The company and Yogo underpaid a female employee from Japan who was employed as a waitress and later as a manager. The employee was sponsored by Poisson on a 187 Regional Sponsored Migration Visa for part of her employment.

Between May 2012 and April 2015, she was paid flat rates ranging from $17 to $19 for all hours worked, including for evening, weekend and public holiday work. This resulted in underpayment of the minimum hourly rates, casual loadings, shift allowances, overtime rates, annual leave entitlements and penalty rates she was entitled to under the Restaurant Industry Award. The employee was underpaid a total of $33,693, which has been rectified.

The employer also breached workplace laws by failing to issue pay slips to the employee and by failing to keep employment records.

“The Court’s penalty sends a strong message to businesses that underpaying entitlements of migrant workers is serious conduct that will not be tolerated.” Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said. “If an employer is paying workers flat rates that undercut the applicable minimum Award rates, they are breaching Australia’s workplace laws and will face consequences.”

Ms Parker added that it was concerning that this is another case involving a restaurant.

“Improving compliance in the restaurant, café and fast food sector continues to be a priority for the Fair Work Ombudsman, where labour costs and the temptation to underpay are high.”

Judge John Middleton found that there had been a considerable underpayment of fundamental entitlements, which had been aggravated by the failure to issue pay slips and keep employment records. In imposing the penalties, he said, “There is a need to show there are serious consequences for failing to comply with Commonwealth Workplace laws. It is important that the community and employers understand that employees must be provided with their correct entitlements and that there must be accurate and compliant record keeping.”

In addition to the penalties, Judge Middleton ordered Yogo to register with the Fair Work Ombudsman’s My Account portal at www.fairwork.gov.au and complete the educational courses for employers in the Online Learning Centre.

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