Two Canberra-based Sumo Salad outlets have been caught underpaying their workers, including failing to pay penalty rates, for a period of two years.
Sumo Salad said the wage theft happened as a result of an “innocent mistake” made by a franchisee.
One of the workers, Jessica Rombouts, told Junkee.com that she smelt a rat when her boss handed her cash in an envelope and told her that she was going to be paid a “training wage” of $15 an hour.
That was more than $8 an hour less than she should have been paid, but Ms Rombouts said she didn’t challenge the boss, because she needed the work.
“I didn’t really argue with it because I really needed the job,” the young university student told Junkee.
One of the outlets is at the Australian National University and the other in Canberra City.
Boss refused to pay penalty rates
Ms Rombouts said her employer did not give her a contract to sign, and when she asked about penalty rates for working on the weekend, he refused to pay her.
When the store hired a new manager, she said she was then given a contract, but it described her as a part-time employee, meaning she would not be earning the higher hourly rate of a casual.
Payslips seen by Junkee showed Ms Rombouts was paid $17.70 an hour, instead of the award rate of $20.08 an hour – she was also not paid penalty rates.
And things only got worse – when she left the job, Ms Rombouts discovered she had not been paid her superannuation, and she hadn’t been paid for the annual leave she was owed as a part time employee.
Another employee who still works for the store told Junkee that when she started working, she was told she was in a “training period” and paid $12 or $13 an hour.
Sumo Salad claims underpayments ‘mistakes’
A spokesperson for Sumo Salad told Junkee that the underpayments were simply mistakes caused by a misunderstanding of the award by the franchisee, and that the company began an audit process within days of being alerted by staff.
“Sumo Salad takes this matter extremely seriously and is committed to ensuring the well being of all employees,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
Speaking to Junkee, the franchisee Bryan Lai promised to “urgently fix any problems that are found”.
“We acknowledge that mistakes have been made in the past and we are working hard to fix anything that has not already been corrected.”
‘If you can’t afford to pay your workers then you shouldn’t be in business’
Miles Heffernan from Industrial Relations Claims scoffed at the company’s excuses.
“It’s a standard response from too many employers – ‘oh, I didn’t understand the award’, or ‘I didn’t know the proper pay rate’ – bullshit!,” he said.
“There is a wealth of information available from the Fair Work Ombudsman for employers who are unsure of awards, or who don’t know what they need to be paying their staff to meet their legal workplace obligations, there is simply no excuse.
“If you don’t know how to run a business, or you can’t afford to pay your workers, then you shouldn’t be in business.
“Wage theft is happening far too often and I am sick and tired of seeing greedy employers ripping off vulnerable young workers with impunity – it’s time this was made a criminal offence and these crooks were thrown in jail.”
If you are not being paid your correct wages and entitlements, or are considering legal action to recover stolen wages, we can help.
Please call our team at Industrial Relations Claims today on
1300 045 466