The owners of a western Sydney restaurant are in court after allegedly underpaying an Indian worker by more than $150,000.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has described the alleged conduct as “extremely serious and completely unacceptable”.
Indian worker allegedly underpaid
Facing court are Rekha Joseph and Jijo Esahac, who owned and operated the Blue Moon Indian restaurant, located at Wentworthville.
They sponsored the Indian worker to work in the kitchen of the restaurant on a 457 skilled worker visa between December 2013 and April 2016.
The restaurant employed him on a contractual salary of $54,000.
However, Fair Work alleges Joseph and Esahacthe paid the worker illegal cash-in-hand wages equating to only $400 to $450 a week.
This happened despite him working 11-12 hours a day, six days a week.
As a result, Blue Moon allegedly failed to pay proper:
- ordinary hourly rates;
- overtime rates; and
- penalty rates for weekend and public holiday work.
The business also allegedly underpaid leave entitlements.
Bank account disguised underpayments
To disguise the underpayments, Ms Jospeh opened a bank account in the worker’s name, and deposited amounts consistent with his salary.
Fair Work alleges that for the majority of the man’s employment, Ms Joseph and Mr Esahac maintained control of the account.
For example, they held the bank card and made a number of withdrawals from the account.
Ms Joseph and Mr Esahac are also accused of breaching laws relating to cash-back arrangements.
They allegedly made the worker repay part of his wages towards the end of his employment.
It’s also alleged that Ms Joseph and Mr Esahac failed to provide pay slips, and provided false records to Fair Work inspectors.
“CAFE OWNER PENALISED $100,000 FOR CASH-BACK RORT”
Migrant workers vulnerable to exploitation
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from IR Claims says migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.
“Overseas workers often don’t know their rights in addition to often having language barriers,” he said.
“Many also fear having their visa cancelled if they complain, and dodgy bosses know this and take advantage of it as a result.
“While the court will determine the facts of this particular case, if the allegations are proven, then it is one of the most appalling and repugnant cases of worker exploitation I have seen.”
Ms Joseph and Mr Esahac face penalties up to $12,600 and $10,800 respectively per contravention.
Fair Work also wants the court to order Ms Joseph and Mr Esahac to back-pay the worker, plus interest.
The Federal Circuit Court has a directions hearing listed later this month.
Please call our team at Industrial Relations Claims today on