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Melbourne café penalised over $230,000 for rorting 73 staff

Adrian Flores
Adrian Flores
23 October 2020 1 minute readShare
Melbourne café penalised

The owners of a café in Northcote were handed more than $230,000 in penalties after they were found to have deliberately underpaid 73 staff members more than $180,000.

The Federal Circuit Court has penalised siblings Stavros and Anastasia Petroulias $33,919 and $29,030, respectively, and imposed a $169,596 penalty against a company they part-own and operate, Malevi, according to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO).

In addition, the court ordered the company, Mr Petroulias and Ms Petroulias to rectify the underpayments in full. So far, workers have been only partially backpaid.

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Most of the underpayments related to a failure to pay employees the penalty rates and casual loadings they were entitled to under the Restaurant Industry Award 2010, with minimum wage rates also underpaid for some employees.

The court found that the company, Mr Petroulias and Ms Petroulias (from August 2017 onwards) were aware that they were not meeting their obligations under the award, but deliberately contravened workplace laws and exploited staff, including many young and migrant workers, by paying flat rates of $18 to $25 an hour.

 

It also found they also deliberately contravened adverse action laws by not offering further shifts to an employee who challenged his unlawfully low rates — and then continued to underpay other employees. Record-keeping laws were also breached.

In handing down the decision, Judge Riley said the exploitation of vulnerable workers was an aggravating feature of the matter and Malevi Pty Ltd, Mr Petroulias and Ms Petroulias had failed to display genuine contrition.

“I do not accept that the respondents are genuinely contrite. Rather, I consider that they are very sorry that they have been caught, and are facing a substantial penalty,” Judge Riley said.

The court ordered Malevi Pty Ltd to commission an independent audit of its wage payment practices and provide the results to the FWO, display a workplace notice detailing workers’ rights, and register on the FWO website to complete the courses for employers. Further, Mr Petroulias and Ms Petroulias were ordered to obtain workplace training.

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Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said employers need to be aware that improving compliance in the fast food, restaurant and café sector continues to be a priority for the FWO.

“Employers are on notice that they must pay all workers according to Australia’s lawful minimum pay rates or risk significant financial penalties. We prioritise matters involving vulnerable workers, especially if we think employers are deliberately breaking the law,” Ms Parker said.

“We also treat very seriously instances of employers taking any sort of action against an employee in response to them seeking to have their lawful workplace rights respected.”

Melbourne café penalised over $230,000 for rorting 73 staff
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Adrian Flores
Adrian Flores

Adrian Flores is the deputy editor of MyBusiness. Before that, he was the deputy editor for SMSF Adviser as well as features editor for ifa (Independent Financial Adviser), InvestorDaily, Risk Adviser, Fintech Business and Adviser Innovation.

You can email Adrian at adrian.flo[email protected].

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