Luke McGrath and his company Wok Me Corporate NQ formerly operated the Wok Me eatery in Rockhampton, Queensland.
Following legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman, Mr McGrath and his business confessed in court to underpaying the 71-year-old cook in 2016.
While the cook – an Australian citizen who was born and raised in China – was generally paid flat hourly rates that often fell below the minimum stipulated by the relevant industry award, the employee was not paid anything for an eight-week period. Superannuation Guarantee instalments were also underpaid.
Combined, that led to the cook being underpaid by a total of $12,658 in just four months.
The Federal Circuit Court also found breaches of law in terms of record-keeping and payslip requirements.
It handed Wok Me Corporate NQ a penalty of $60,480 and Mr McGrath was personally fined a further $12,096.
“Mature age employees can be vulnerable in the workplace as they face fewer opportunities and are often reluctant to complain. The Fair Work Ombudsman took court action against Wok Me because we prioritise matters involving the underpayment of vulnerable employees,” Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said.
Ms Parker’s comments about mature age workers having less opportunities is backed up by research, with a survey of 1,005 Australians aged over 50 finding that 69 per cent had experienced some form of workplace discrimination because of their age.
Flinders University psychology Professor Mike Nicholls has previously suggested that age-related discrimination is an in-built tendency for most people, as they bring a subconscious bias for people closer to their own age into the workplace.