A Crown Casino cafe operator has been penalised $257,000 for ripping off 54 of his workers.
The Federal Circuit Court penalised Len Di Pietro $40,000, and additionally, his company Ital One Holdings, $217,000 for the underpayments.
Crown Casino cafe operator penalised
Cafe Baci operated 24-hours a day, seven days a week, at Crown Casino at Southbank in Melbourne.
Di Pietro employed the workers as kitchen hands, chefs, and also as waiters.
He paid them all an unlawful flat rate, and as a result, he failed to pay:
- proper minimum hourly rate for ordinary hours,
- overtime rates,
- casual loadings and
- penalty rates for weekend, early morning, late night and public holiday work.
As a result, Di Pietro underpaid the workers a total of $73,374.
The largest individual underpayment totalled $5,433 for a waiter over a four month period in 2016.
Workers take their own action
Prior to the Fair Work Ombudsman’s involvement, three workers launched their own legal action against Di Pietro.
That claim resulted in the court ordering Ital One Holdings to back-pay the workers more than $32,000.
What the court said
In the latest case, Judge Heather Riley described Di Pietro’s and his company’s conduct as “particularly egregious”.
Furthermore, she noted they had shown no remorse.
“[T]he [company] had been found by this court to have broken workplace laws in substantially similar ways on three previous occasions in the recent past.
“It is incumbent on anyone running a business, no matter how busy it is or how many staff it has, to ascertain the correct rates of pay for employees and have systems in place to ensure that the correct rates of pay are paid.
“In my view, the need for general deterrence is a significant factor in this matter, given the level of disputes in the café and restaurant sector, and the vulnerability of many of the employees in that industry”.
Judge Riley ordered the company to audit its business, and furthermore, she ordered Di Pietro to undertake workplace relations training.
What the experts say
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Fair Work Claims called on the federal government to make wage theft a crime.
“Yet again, an employer has deliberately, systematically and repeatedly stolen money from his workers,” he said.
“This is why we need tougher laws which will see Mr Di Pietro cop a criminal conviction, and possibly even a jail sentence.
“He’s a common thief, and the justice system should treated him as such.”