The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has commenced legal action in the Federal Circuit Court against Maurice Arias and his company Mashnicisa Pty Ltd, which operates the Buenavista Kuranda café and formerly operated Donut Joint.
Mr Arias faces penalties of up to $12,600 per contravention and company Mashnicisa Pty Ltd up to $63,000 per contravention. The alleged underpayments are outstanding and the FWO is seeking a court order requiring the parties to back-pay employees.
Ombudsman Sarah Parker said the inspectors discovered the alleged underpayments during an investigation into two worker requests for assistance.
“Enforcing compliance with workplace laws in the fast food, restaurant and café sector continues to be a priority for the Fair Work Ombudsman,” Ms Parker said.
“Employees in this sector are on notice that they must pay all employees according to Australia’s lawful minimum pay rates.”
The FWO is alleging 17 employees at Donut Joint, including 11 juniors between ages 15 and 18 and a visa holder, were underpaid a total of $12,045 over a period of about three months in early 2018. The underpayments range from $37 to $6,034.
It is also alleged that employees at Donut Joint were generally paid flat rates that were not sufficient to cover the weekend and holiday pay rates, overtime rates and evening loadings they are entitled to under the Fast Food Industry Award 2010.
“Young workers are particularly vulnerable to workplace underpayment as they might not know about their rights or be fearful about raising concerns with their boss,” Ms Parker said.
“Businesses that deliberately underpay teenage and other vulnerable workers will very likely face the courts.”
Mr Arias will also face potential charges for failing to comply with a Notice to Produce issued by the FWO and by providing the ombudsman with false records. It is alleged he has also failed to provide new employees with a Fair Work Information Statement.
In relation to two workers, the FWO will rely on new reverse onus of proof laws which require employers to disprove underpayment allegations in court if they have failed to provide accurate and adequate financial records.