Former operators of a Westfield Geelong shopping centre The Coffee Club outlet have copped penalties totalling $115,603 for staff underpayments and falsified records.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court imposed a $96,336 penalty against former franchisee JMSL Pty Ltd. It also issued a $19,267 penalty against the company’s sole director, Edison Peng, also known as Congyou Peng.
Ex-Coffee Club operators underpaid two workers
JMSL Pty Ltd and Peng admitted breaching workplace laws by underpaying two workers a total of $15,412 between May 2016 and November 2018.
They also admitted breaching record-keeping and pay slip laws which included 66 falsified time-and-wages records which they then provided to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO).
The two affected workers were paid flat rates as low as $15 per hour. This resulted in underpayment of rates they were entitled to under the Restaurant Industry Award 2010. The workers were underpaid junior hourly rates, casual loadings, and weekend and public holiday penalty rates.
JMSL Pty Ltd and Peng only back-paid the workers in full after the FWO started legal action.
Judge Caroline Kirton said the workers had suffered “significant” loss. She pointed out JMSL Pty Ltd and Peng took “deliberate steps” to falsify records to “conceal” the underpayments.
Former operator had already been warned by FWO
Judge Kirton noted that Peng “persisted with this conduct” despite having received prior warnings from the FWO.
“The deliberate provision of false information to a regulator is inexcusable and will be met with a strong penalty outcome,” Judge Kirton said.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said employers need to be aware there are significant consequences for deliberately breaching workplace laws.
“Deliberate falsification of records and the payment of low, flat rates that undercut Award entitlements is completely unacceptable conduct. The exploitative conduct we have seen in this matter will not be tolerated in any Australian workplace,” Parker said.
“Employers also need to be aware that protecting vulnerable workers, like young workers, and enforcing compliance in the fast food, restaurant and cafe sector are enduring priorities for the FWO. Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact us for free advice and assistance,” Parker said.
- The Coffee Club Café – Bay City Geelong now has new operators. The Fair Work Ombudsman makes no allegations against the current operators of the business.