Italian restaurant operators in court

26 February 2021

The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action in the Federal Circuit Court against the operators of a restaurant in Melbourne.

Facing court are Champagne or Wine Pty Ltd, which operates the ‘Mother Dough’ Italian restaurant in Hawthorn, and company directors Jeffrey Baldassarre and Allison Barnes.

The regulator commenced its investigation after receiving a request for assistance from an employee who worked as a waiter on a casual basis at the restaurant between June 2018 and September 2019, when he was aged 21 to 22.

A Fair Work Inspector issued a Compliance Notice to Champagne or Wine Pty Ltd in July 2020 after forming a belief the employee was underpaid the casual minimum wage and penalty rates for evening and weekend work he was entitled to under the Restaurant Industry Award 2010.

The FWO alleges the company, without reasonable excuse, failed to comply with the Compliance Notice which required it to calculate and back-pay the worker’s entitlements.

It is also alleged the company failed to comply with a Notice to Produce records issued by the Fair Work Ombudsman during its investigation.

The FWO alleges Mr Baldassarre and Ms Barnes were involved in the contraventions.

In line with the FWO’s proportionate approach to regulation during the COVID-19 pandemic, the FWO attempted to secure voluntary compliance before commencing legal action.

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

“Under the Fair Work Act, Compliance Notices are important tools used by inspectors if they form a belief that an employer has breached workplace laws,” Ms Parker said.

“Where employers do not comply with our requests, we will take appropriate action to protect employees. A court can order a business to pay penalties in addition to back-paying workers. Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for free assistance.”

The FWO is seeking penalties against Champagne or Wine Pty Ltd, Mr Baldassarre and Ms Barnes. The company faces a maximum penalty of $33,300 for the alleged Compliance Notice contravention and a penalty of up to $63,000 for allegedly failing to comply with the Notice to Produce.

Mr Baldassarre and Ms Barnes each face a maximum penalty of $6,660 for the alleged Compliance Notice contravention and a penalty of up to $12,600 for the alleged Notice to Produce contravention.

The regulator is also seeking a court order for the company to take the action required by the Compliance Notice, which includes calculating and rectifying any underpayments in full, plus superannuation and interest.

A directions hearing has been listed in the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne on 23 April 2021. Employers and employees can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance about their rights and obligations in the workplace.

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Media inquiries:

Ryan Pedler, Assistant Director - Media
Mobile: 0411 430 902
ryan.pedler@fwo.gov.au

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