A cafe owner has been penalised $100,000 for an illegal cash-back rort designed to rip off a cook.
Tibor Vertes runs the popular Coluzzi cafe in Darlinghurst in inner-Sydney.
The Federal Circuit Court penalised Vertes $9,720 and his company Robit Nominees a further $87,345.
Cafe owner penalised for illegal cash-back rort
Vertes made the worker, a cook from Italy, pay back $218 in cash each week from her wages.
He told her he needed the money to pay tax and superannuation contributions.
In total, Vertes forced the cook to pay back $13,952 of her wages over a 15-month period.
The worker didn’t complain because she feared losing her job and having to move back to Italy as a result.
At the time, she relied on the cafe to sponsor her 457 skilled worker visa.
In addition to the cash-back scheme, Vertes also failed to pay the cook proper:
- penalty rates for weekend and public holiday work; and
- annual leave entitlements.
In total, the wage theft totalled $39,686.
“CAR WASH OPERATORS PENALISED FOR ILLEGAL CASH-BACK SCHEME”
Need to send a strong message to industry
Judge Nicholas Manousaridis said the worker had lost a significant amount of money over a significant amount of time.
“The manner in which the weekly repayments were paid suggested it was a scheme established to create the false impression that [the worker] was being paid her lawful entitlements.
“The scheme was implemented in relation to an employee who was vulnerable because she relied on Robit Nominees to remain in Australia.”
Judge Manousaridis noted Vertes had expressed no contrition.
He also said there is “a need to send a strong message to the restaurant industry in which Mr Vertes works.”
Cash-back schemes ‘a cruel form of wage theft’
Miles Heffernan from IR Claims says cash-back schemes are a cruel form of wage theft.
“It’s a really sneaky way employers steal from the employees, because according to the books, they have paid proper wage and entitlements,” he said.
“The sad reality is they are literally stealing their wages back from them.
“This is blatant theft – and therefore should be treated like all other forms of theft – with criminal penalties, including jail time.”
Vertes has back-paid the worker in full.
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