The operators of three PappaRich outlets have been penalised a whopping $307,000 after they were caught underpaying more than 150 workers $74,000.
A number of the affected employees were migrant workers on student and working holiday visas.
Loke Cheng Wong, who runs the PappaRich outlet at Macquarie Park in Sydney, and used to run two others at Chatswood and in the Sydney CBD, was penalised $34,425.
His two companies – PPR Ryde Pty Ltd and Gateharvest Pty Ltd – have been penalised $141,751 and $131,626, respectively, for their involvement in the underpayments.
Between May and July in 2017, PappaRich employees were paid flat rates as low as $13 to $14.50 an hour.
The flat rates meant that the workers weren’t paid their legal ordinary hourly rates, weekend and public holiday penalty rates, overtime rates and casual loadings.
In total, 73 employees who worked at the Macquarie Park franchise were underpaid $34,834, a further 42 employees at the Chatswood outlet were underpaid $22,533, and 39 employees at the city restaurant were underpaid $16,633.
What the court said
In the Federal Circuit Court, Judge Rolf Driver dismissed Mr Wong’s claim that he was not aware of the relevant Award:
“Mr Wong pleads ignorance of the relevant award requirements, but the evidence establishes that he was aware of the existence of an award and did not make further enquiries until the details of the Award, and the consequential underpayments, were brought to his attention.”
In addition to the penalties, Judge Driver ordered Mr Wong to complete online workplace relations training with the Fair Work Ombudsman.
All the workers have been repaid.
No excuse for wage theft
Industrial relations expert Miles Heffernan said employers often plead ignorance as an excuse for underpaying their workers.
“We hear it time and time again – employers claim that modern awards are too complex to understand, well I say that’s bullshit,” he said.
“And the reason is, these people can pay their taxes properly, they can comply with food safety and handling standards, they can work out menus and count profit and losses, but when it comes to paying proper wages and entitlements, they throw their hands in the air and cry that it’s all too hard.
“Employers who don’t know how to pay their staff correctly should not be in business.”
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