The former owner of a Cairns restaurant have been hit with a huge $168,924 penalty for ripping off a migrant worker more than $33,000.
In handing down the penalty, the Federal Circuit Court said “There is a need to show there are serious consequences for failing to comply with Commonwealth Workplace laws.”
Worker paid flat rate
Miyuki Yogo, who operated the Mature Yogo restaurant at ‘The Pier’ precinct on Pierpoint Road, was penalised $26,780 while her company Poisson Pty Ltd was hit with a further $142,144 in the Federal Circuit Court for underpaying the migrant worker.
The woman, who was employed as a waitress and later as a manager, was a Japanese national and was sponsored by Poisson on a migration visa.
The court found that between May 2012 and April 2015, the worker was paid flat rates ranging from $17 to $19 for all hours worked, including for evening, weekend and public holiday work.
This meant that she was underpaid minimum hourly rates, casual loadings, shift allowances, overtime and penalty rates and annual leave entitlements.
The total of the wage theft was $33,693, which has since been paid back.
The court found that Ms Yogo also breached workplace laws by failing to issue pay slips and failing to keep employment records.
Wage theft rife in hospitality industry
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Industrial Relations Claims said the case is more evidence that the hospitality industry is rife with wage theft.
“It’s estimated that one in two hospo workers are not being legally paid, which is outrageous,” he said.
“While it’s good to see a greedy boss cop a huge penalty, it is only a drop in the ocean.
“We need to make wage theft a criminal offence so people like Ms Yogo end up with a criminal conviction, and maybe even spend some time behind bars, so the message gets through to all employers that stealing from workers is not acceptable.”
A need for serious consequences for wage theft
Judge John Middleton found that there had been a considerable underpayment of fundamental entitlements, which had been aggravated by the failure to issue pay slips and keep employment records.
“There is a need to show there are serious consequences for failing to comply with Commonwealth Workplace laws,” he said.
“It is important that the community and employers understand that employees must be provided with their correct entitlements and that there must be accurate and compliant record keeping.”
In addition to the penalties, Judge Middleton ordered Ms Yogo to complete online educational courses for employers on the Fair Work Ombudsman website.
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
1300 045 466