Former manager fined more than $20,000 over underpayment of kitchen hand

1 April 2010

The former manager of a Melbourne restaurant has been fined more than $20,000 for underpaying a vulnerable young kitchen hand.

Elias Mazloum, who managed the Sofia South Morang pizza and pasta restaurant before it closed in 2008, was fined $21,780 in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court following a prosecution by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Magistrate Amanda Chambers imposed the penalty after finding that the kitchen hand had been underpaid about $40,000 between 2004 and 2007.

The employee, in his 20s, was paid a flat rate of $10.50 to $13 per hour, resulting in underpayment of his minimum hourly rate and penalty rates for weekend, public holiday and shift work.

Magistrate Chambers ordered Mazloum's fine be paid to the worker.

The company which previously ran the restaurant, South Morang Restaurant Pty Ltd, is in liquidation.

In her judgment, Magistrate Chambers says Mazloum was aware the kitchen hand was being underpaid, but inappropriately sought to justify his rate of pay as reasonable because he believed the employee had "mental problems".

"Mr Mazloum's attitude was that (the kitchen hand) was ‘not right in the head’ and was paid a reasonable amount given his limited working capacity," she said.

"It is appropriate that the penalty imposed on him act as a clear warning that it can never be acceptable, in employing staff, that decisions as to pay be solely determined by reference to his own assessment of that employee’s skills and competencies."

Fair Work Ombudsman Executive Director Michael Campbell says the court penalty reinforces the message to employers that underpaying vulnerable employees is a serious matter and they need to ensure they are paying staff their lawful entitlements.

The Fair Work Ombudsman promotes harmonious, productive and co-operative workplaces. It also monitors compliance with and investigates breaches of national workplace laws.

Employers or employees seeking assistance should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 or visit For translations call 13 14 50.

Media inquiries:

Craig Bildstien, Director Media & Stakeholder Relations,
0419 818 484

Ryan Pedler, Media & Stakeholder Relations Senior Adviser
(03) 9954 2561, 0434 365 924

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