Former restaurant managers fined $35,000 for underpaying foreign cook

The former managers of a Melbourne-based Chinese restaurant have been fined $35,000 for underpaying a foreign worker who was employed as a cook.

Zhu Chang Rong and Tao Moqin, formerly the part-owners and managers of Hongyun Chinese Restaurant in Melbourne, were fined $19,500 and $15,600 respectively.

The cook was underpaid $14,927 between June 2010 and May 2011.

The cook is now a permanent resident, but at the time he was in Australia on a bridging visa and spoke limited English.

This case is just one of many recent cases where the Fair Work Ombudsman has targeted businesses, particularly in the hospitality industry, underpaying foreign workers.

FWO group manager Michael Campbell said in a statement the court action demonstrates the seriousness of the issue.

“Foreign workers can be vulnerable if they are not fully aware of their rights or are reluctant to complain.

“We do not hesitate to take the necessary compliance action when we find cases of foreign workers being blatantly underpaid. Underpayments of foreign workers in Australia will not be tolerated,” he says.

Principal at M+K Lawyers, Andrew Douglas, told SmartCompany hospitality is likely to remain a sector vulnerable to underpaying foreigners.

“In the hospitality industry, businesses are always looking for skilled labour and there are fluctuating trends in demand for workers and so it’s an industry which isn’t looking for employees offering long-term service.”

The case was brought to the attention of the FWO following a complaint by the employee, who was paid a flat rate of $11.50, but was entitled to receive more than $15 an hour for normal work and more than $20 an hour for some weekend, overtime and public holiday work.

When the case went to court, the employee had only received a partial back-payment and Federal Court judge Heather Riley ordered part of the fines go toward repaying the employee.

Zhu and Tao admitted being centrally involved in the majority of the underpayments.

Riley said in her judgment there was a “significant risk of underpayment in the restaurant industry” and Zhu and Tao did not seem remorseful.

“There is no real indication of remorse or an understanding of their wrongdoing”.

“It is incumbent upon employers to make all necessary enquiries to ascertain their employees’ proper entitlements and pay their employees at the proper rates,” she said.



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