The Fair Work Ombudsman says it is taking “appropriate action” to protect vulnerable employees, cracking down on businesses that do not comply with its compliance notices.
Bondi bar fined $164k for underpaying workers, faking documents
An upscale Bondi bar and restaurant has been penalised $164,635 for “extensive and deliberate” breaches of workplace law, the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) said on Tuesday.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court fined Upper East Side Bondi $137,196 and former director Julia Rose Gelonese $27,439 for providing false documents and information to the FWO and failing to comply with notices to issue $24,412 in back payments to eight workers.
The ruling comes after the FWO secured $26,460 in penalties in 2021 against Upper East Side Bondi and Ms Gelonese for failing to comply with two earlier compliance notices requiring back payment of employees.
Fair Work Ombudsman Anna Booth said it was “disappointing” to take legal action twice against the same operator for breaking the law.
“We have no tolerance for the deliberate providing of false information and any employer who does so is at high risk of being taken to court,” she said.
Ms Booth said the employees affected included several visa holders and that the FWO would take “appropriate action” to protect them. “Protecting vulnerable migrant workers is one of our top priorities.”
An FWO investigation into Upper East Side Bondi was first triggered in 2020 after a worker requested assistance from the watchdog.
The FWO issued two compliance notices after it found the restaurant had underpaid eight workers minimum wages, overtime, evening and weekend penalty rates, casual loadings and annual leave entitlements.
The workers were employed in front-of-house and kitchen roles for various periods between September 2019 and March 2020. Some of the workers were from Korea, Japan or Britain and on working holiday or student visas, the FWO said.
Judge Nicholas Manousaridis found that the false documents and information provided by Ms Gelonese were “extensive, and by their nature deliberate”. Due to the previous proceedings, there was “no doubt” Ms Gelonese knew of the nature and significance of the compliance notices, he said.
Mr Manousaridis said it was necessary to issue significant penalties to deter others from engaging in delay and misinformation to avoid paying amounts owed under a compliance notice.
“The penalties should be set at a level that signals to all persons who are involved in responding to a compliance notice … that there would be no advantage in giving false or misleading information intentionally or recklessly,” he said.
On the same day, the FWO announced it had also secured a $26,640 penalty from the Federal Circuit and Family Court against a Victorian carpentry company called NB Visionary Trading for similarly failing to comply with a compliance notice.
The FWO had found that one worker, aged 20, had been underpaid wages, overtime, annual leave and public holiday entitlements “as a result of being paid apprentice rates despite not having been validly engaged in an apprenticeship”.
Judge Heather Riley found that the contravention was “deliberate”, and NB Visionary Trading had a “cavalier disregard” of its employer obligations, showing “no signs of remorse”.
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