A GOLD Coast chef has been ordered to serve up more than $15,000 in fines after 'refusing to reimburse a teenage apprentice who had been underpaid'.
Meyjitte Boughenout (pictured), the man behind fine-dining restaurant Absynthe in Surfers Paradise, was fined $2550 while his company received a further $12,750 penalty.
The Federal Circuit Court decision follows legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman, a decision Boughenout says is "unfair and unjust".
The chef says he always intended to pay the fine, he was just seeking clarification in regards to the amount owing.
"It started at $700 and in 18 months they had given me four different amounts they were bouncing me like a yo-yo," he says.
"We had been asking 'how did we get to the amount' that you are claiming?
"We just wanted an explanation how did we get to that conclusion and we still don't have that today."
The apprentice approached the Fair Work Ombudsman after being underpaid wages and annual leave entitlements.
Boughenout says the apprentice was innocently placed on the hospitality industry rate instead of the restaurant industry rate.
The Fair Work Ombudsman says it made repeated requests to Boughenout to respond to a Compliance Notice requiring him to back-pay the 18-year-old apprentice chef $4195.
Judge Michael Jarrett found the Fair Work Ombudsman had issued the Compliance Notice in an effort to resolve the underpayment matter in a way that avoided cost to the public purse associated with Court action.
However, Judge Jarrett said Boughenout and his company had "demonstrated a deliberate disregard" for workplace laws by failing to comply and had shown no contrition or remorse.
"The respondents did nothing except engage in what might be described as obfuscation and avoidance," Jarrett says.
Jarrett says the penalty "serves as a warning to others" that disregarding Compliance Notices "may come with a heavy price".
Boughenout has confirmed his lease at the Q1 building is running out and he is currently eyeing Coolangatta and Carrara for future ventures.
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