Employment law experts are once again calling on the federal government to introduce criminal penalties for wage theft, after a Queensland restaurant operator was penalised for a third time for ripping off workers.
In handing down more than $100,000 in penalties, the Federal Circuit Court described the underpayments as “reckless” and “inexcusable”.
Nine employees who worked at the Fire and Stone restaurant at the Tangalooma Island Resort on Moreton Island were underpaid a total of $2,239 between March and October 2017.
Former manager Jia Ning Wang was ordered to pay $38,808 and the restaurant’s owner Auspac Hospitality Management was penalised $75,000.
It’s the third time Mr Wang has been penalised for his involvement in ripping off workers.
In 2016, he and his company were penalised $20,000 for paying a young Chinese backpacker just $10 an hour.
In 2017, they were penalised more than $70,000 for underpaying a young international student and dismissing her by text message when she complained.
That penalty remains unpaid.
Penalties are ‘a joke’
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Industrial Relations Claims said the case highlights the ineffectiveness of current penalties.
“Here we have an arrogant repeat offender, who is penalised and penalised, and not only does he not pay the penalties – he still keeps stealing from his workers,” Mr Heffernan said.
“Mr Wang is living proof that current financial penalties for wage theft are an absolute joke.
“Mr Wang should be criminally charged and face criminal convictions and even jail time, just like every other thief would.
“It’s time the government stopped talking about cracking down on wage theft, and started doing something about it.”
Wage theft ‘inexcusable’
The Fair Work Ombudsman says Mr Wang is only the second individual to face three legal actions.
In addition to the underpayments, which have been rectified, Judge Michael Jarrett said the company’s “significant” breaches of record-keeping and pay slip laws limited the ability of employees to monitor their legal entitlements.
Judge Jarrett said both Mr Wang, who he described as an experienced businessman, and Auspac were “reckless”, and the non-compliance “inexcusable”.
“There is a need to send a message to employers in the hospitality industry that employees must be provided with their correct entitlements and that accurate and complete employee records and payslips are not optional.”
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If you are not being paid your correct wages and entitlements, or if you are considering legal action to recover stolen wages, we can help.
Please call our team at Industrial Relations Claims today on
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