FWO acts against Melbourne restaurant over staff underpayments

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) is seeking penalties after a Melbourne restaurant underpaid substantial entitlements to five employees across three restaurant chains.

29 June 2022 

The FWO has commenced legal action against the operators of three ‘Souvlaki GR’ restaurants in Melbourne.

Facing court are Souvlaki GR Ormond Pty Ltd and Souvlaki GR Thornbury Pty Ltd – which operate Souvlaki GR restaurants in Ormond and Thornbury, respectively – and GR St Kilda Pty Ltd, which formerly operated a Souvlaki GR restaurant in St Kilda.

Also facing court is the sole director of each of the companies, Despina Karagiozis.

The regulator investigated after receiving requests for assistance from five workers who worked at the three Souvlaki GR restaurants for various periods between August 2020 and March 2021.

One of the workers was employed as a cook and the other four, all young workers, were employed as food and beverage attendants. Two were aged 18 when they commenced working at GR Souvlaki, one was 19 and another was 23.

A Fair Work Inspector issued compliance notices to GR St Kilda Pty Ltd, Souvlaki GR Ormond Pty Ltd and Souvlaki GR Thornbury Pty Ltd in October 2021 after forming a belief the workers had been underpaid under the Restaurant Industry Award 2020 and the National Employment Standards.

The inspector formed a belief that the workers were underpaid minimum wage rates, overtime rates, weekend and public holiday penalty rates, annual leave entitlements, and payment in lieu of notice.

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The FWO alleges the three companies, without reasonable excuse, failed to comply with the compliance notices, which required them to calculate and back pay the workers’ entitlements. It is alleged Ms Karagiozis was involved in the contraventions.

FWO Sandra Parker said the regulator would continue to enforce workplace laws and take businesses to court where lawful requests are not complied with.

“Where employers do not comply, we will take appropriate action to protect employees. A court can order a business to pay penalties in addition to back paying workers,” Ms Parker said.

“Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for free assistance.”

The FWO is seeking penalties. GR St Kilda Pty Ltd, Souvlaki GR Ormond Pty Ltd and Souvlaki GR Thornbury Pty Ltd each face a penalty of up to $33,300 for allegedly failing to comply with a compliance notice.

In addition, Ms Karagiozis faces penalties of up to $6,660 per breach for her alleged involvement in failing to comply with three compliance notices.

The regulator is also seeking orders for the companies to comply with the compliance notices, which include calculating and rectifying the alleged underpayments in full, plus superannuation and interest.

A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit and Family Court in Melbourne on 8 August 2022.

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