Degani cafe operator facing court

The operator of a Degani caf_ in Melbourne is facing Court after allegedly falsifying records to conceal more than $12,000 in staff underpayments.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is taking legal action in the Federal Circuit Court against Sajid Amin, who manages and part-owns the Degani outlet at Greensborough, and the company SHMAP Group Pty Ltd, which holds a franchise agreement for the outlet. Amin is a director of SHMAP Group Pty Ltd.

The allegations suggest Amin and SHMAP Group underpaid 15 employees (including four teenagers, with one aged just 15, and two adult overseas workers from China and Malaysia) a total of $12,506 over a period of nine weeks between September and November 2016.

FWO alleges one 19-year-old employee was paid rates as low as $15 an hour despite at the time being entitled to base rates including casual loading of $20.09, weekend rates of up to $24.11 and up to $40.18 on public holidays. The employee was allegedly underpaid a total of $1763.

It is also alleged that Amin and SHMAP Group contravened workplace laws by asking underpaid employees to sign blank timesheets, make false entries in the timesheets, understate the number of hours worked or falsify the day worked when the hours worked attracted public holiday penalty rates.

The Fair Work Ombudsman discovered the alleged underpayments during a proactive audit activity involving 14 Degani branded cafes in and around Melbourne and two at Rockhampton, in Queensland.

The audits focused on cafes operated under franchisee or licensee arrangements and checked whether workers were being paid their lawful minimum entitlements.

All underpayments have now been back-paid in full.

The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges the contraventions occurred despite Armin knowing about SHMAP Group’s lawful obligations to its employees under the relevant Award, including through having completed a Fair Work Ombudsman online training course and having received advice from Degani Bakery Caf_ Pty Ltd.

SHMAP Group Pty Ltd faces maximum penalties of up to $54,000 per contravention and Amin could be penalised up to $10,800 for each contravention.

In addition, the Fair Work Ombudsman is seeking Court orders for SHMAP Group to commission an audit of its compliance with workplace laws and to commission workplace relations training for managerial staff.

A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne on 26 February.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s compliance activity focused on Degani outlets has also resulted in a Degani Bakery Caf_ in Mornington, south of Melbourne, entering into an Enforceable Undertaking after underpaying staff almost $10,000.

The Fair Work Ombudsman will publish a public report on the compliance activity after its completion.