A grocery store owner has been penalised $121,000 for ripping off two migrant workers with “deliberate and significant” wage theft.
The employer paid the workers as little as $10 an hour, underpaying them a total of $13,997 over a four month period.
The wage theft happened despite the Fair Work Ombudsman previously warning the business about workplace laws in 2015.
Grocery store owner penalised for ripping off migrant workers
Jordan Shan and his company Jenni International Pty Ltd formerly owned and operated the Dae Bark Mart Asian grocery store in Melbourne’s CBD.
The affected employees are from South Korea on working holiday visas.
One worked six or seven days a week ordering and stacking stock, while the other worked as a part-time cashier.
Fair Work commenced an investigation following complaints from the workers.
Shan paid them unlawful flat rates of $10 to $12.50 an hour.
The award stipulates a minimum hourly rate of $19.44 and penalty rates of $24.30 to $48.60.
He also underpaid their annual leave entitlements.
The underpayments happened despite Fair Work putting Shan on notice of Commonwealth workplace laws in 2015.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said employers that deliberately underpay vulnerable workers and ignore warnings will face legal action.
“Employers are on notice that they must pay all workers according to Australia’s lawful minimum pay rates or risk significant financial penalties.
“We prioritise matters involving vulnerable workers, especially if we think breaches are deliberate.
“All workers have the same rights regardless of nationality or visa status.”
“FAIR WORK TAKES CAFE OPERATORS TO COURT OVER UNDERPAYMENTS”
Underpayments ‘significant and deliberate’
Judge Alister McNab described the underpayments as “significant and deliberate”.
He also noted that Shan had not shown any contrition.
“The conduct of the Respondents was deliberate and involved a number of employees where the underpayment of their entitlements was significant.
“The underpayment of entitlements also occurred where (Mr Shan) is a highly educated person and had previously occupied a senior position as an Associate Professor of Applied Economics at Victoria University.”
Judge McNab said the penalties imposed are “a strong disincentive for small businesses to engage in similar conduct”.
In addition to the penalties, the Court also ordered Shan to back-pay the workers in full, plus interest.
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