Jordan Shan was formerly an associate professor of applied economics at the Victoria University of Technology, before taking on the Dae Bark Mart Asian grocery store in Melbourne’s CBD.
Mr Shan and his company Jenni International, of which he was the sole director, are accused by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) of paying employees hourly rates of between $10 and $12.50.
Under the relevant retail award, the workers were entitled to minimum ordinary hour rates of $19.44, and up to $38.88 on Sundays and $48.60 for overtime hours.
According to the FWO, the underpayment was not accidental, given that Mr Shan and Jenni International had already been put on notice for wage underpayment at a restaurant the operated.
“A clearly well-educated employer allegedly blatantly underpaying workers even after being informed of their lawful obligations is completely unacceptable conduct,” acting ombudsman Kristen Hannah said.
The affected workers, both aged in their 20s and in Australia on 417 working holidays visas, were also allegedly denied their accrued annual leave entitlements.
That amounted to underpayments of $14,015 over a period of less than four months. The alleged offences occurred in 2016.
As well as full restitution with interest for the affected workers, Mr Shan and his business face fines of up to $10,800 and $54,000 respectively for each offence.
The FWO is also seeking an injunction against potential future breaches of employee entitlements, meaning contempt of court charges could be laid if future incidents of wage underpayment are proven.