Two Hello Juice outlets in Victoria have been handed $276,929 in fines for underpaying 27 workers, some of whom were minors, on hourly rates as low as $10.
The Federal Circuit Court ordered $242,313 in penalties against Skypic Group Ptd Ltd and Skypac Group Pty Ltd, which operated juice stores in Geelong and Werribee.
The general manager of both stores was also fined $34,616 over the wage theft, which occurred over various periods in 2017.
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) brought the case last year after discovering the underpayments during an audit.
Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the case was yet another example of non-compliance with workplace laws in the fast food, restaurant and cafe sector, which employs many vulnerable workers.
“Employers in this sector are on notice that they need to comply with workplace laws. The FWO expects all employers to comply with workplace obligations and they should access our free tools and resources if they need assistance. Any employees with queries about pay should contact us,” Parker said in a statement.
The businesses underpaid workers on flat rates, meaning staff were underpaid casual loadings and penalty rates for weekend and public holiday work.
One worker was also asked on two separate occasions to pay almost $5,000 back to their employer for “rectification” and a “tax refund” in what the court found was a breach of workplace laws.
Judge O’Sullivan, noting the owners of the business were from “linguistically diverse backgrounds”, said the breaches were serious and deliberate.
“It is also an illustration of an all too common phenomenon where employers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds exploit workers (including, or especially, from within their own ethnic communities) and then come before the Court and seek to rely on their own alleged ignorance of workplace laws or foreign cultural norms to mitigate any penalties that need to be applied when they are finally caught out,” O’Sullivan said.
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