THE operator of two popular Melbourne restaurants is facing court for underpaying employees over $31,000 over a period of two weeks.
Melbourne man Ye Shao, owner-operator of Tina's Noodle Kitchen in Box Hill and Dainty Sichaun on Swanson Street will face legal action in the Federal Circuit Court.
His companies, Nine Dragons Pty Ltd and Wynn Sichaun Pty Ltd, and the companies' in-house accountant Yizhu "Jessica" Ding are also facing legal action.
Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors and Department of Immigration and Border Protection officers made unannounced visits to the restaurants last year where they exercised their powers to take copies of time-and-wages records stored on-site.
The inspectors found a total of 30 employees across the two restaurants had been underpaid a total of $30,995 during the two-week period targeted for audit.
Allegedly, 17 employees at Dainty Sichaun were underpaid $18,190 and 13 employees at Tina's Noodle Kitchen were underpaid $12,805.
The Ombudsman alleges employees were paid flat rates ranging from $10 to $22 an hour.
The employees, mostly overseas workers on working holiday and student visas, were allegedly working six or seven days a week and more than 10 hours per day.
Under the Restaurant Industry Award 2010 employees are entitled to penalty rates of more than $40 for some hours, though allegedly this was also ignored.
Shao's companies have commenced the back-payment of the employees.
Mark Scully, Acting Fair Work Ombudsman, says a decision was made to commence litigation because of the allegedly blatant underpayment of vulnerable overseas workers.
"It is not okay for employers to arbitrarily determine low, flat rates of pay," says Scully.
"Minimum wage rates apply to everyone in Australia including visa-holders and they are not negotiable."
Shao and Ding face maximum penalties of $10,800 per contravention and Shao's companies face penalties of up to $54,000 per contravention.
The Ombudsman is also seeking a Court Order requiring the companies to commission a professional external audit of pay practices and report the results to the Ombudsman.
A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne on August 28.
Business News Australia
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