Sydney pizza store operator faces Court over alleged failure to rectify underpayments

17 March 2014

The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal proceedings against the former owner-operator of a Sydney pizza outlet for allegedly failing to comply with a demand to back-pay eight underpaid employees more than $25,000.

Facing court is Sydney man Soitiros Theocharidis, who formerly owned and ran the Crust Gourmet Pizza outlet at Maroubra.

Eight delivery drivers and sales employees at the pizza outlet - including two aged under 21 - were allegedly underpaid a total of $25,995 in wages last year.

Fair Work inspectors discovered the alleged underpayments when they audited the business as part of a proactive auditing campaign targeting the fast food sector.

Last September, the Fair Work Ombudsman issued a Compliance Notice to Mr Theocharidis and his private company that required the underpayments to be rectified within 29 days.

Mr Theocharidis and his company allegedly failed to meet the requirements of the Compliance Notice, and no application for a review of the Compliance Notice was made.

Under the Fair Work Act, business operators must comply with Compliance Notices issued by Fair Work inspectors or make a court application for a review if they are seeking to challenge a Notice.

"Our inspectors made extensive efforts to engage with this business operator to try to resolve the matter voluntarily, but were not been able to secure sufficient co-operation," Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said today.

Mr Theocharidis faces maximum penalty of $5100.

A hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit Court in Sydney on April 16.

Each year, Fair Work inspectors identify underpayments at thousands of businesses nationally and resolve the vast majority by working co-operatively with employers, guiding them through the back-payment process and assisting them to put systems in place to ensure they pay their staff correctly in future.

However, if employers refuse to co-operate, Fair Work inspectors will consider compliance action, including issuing statute-based Compliance Notices, which usually seek action within 28 days.

"It is important for employers to understand that when a Compliance Notice is issued, the Fair Work Ombudsman is simply seeking to recover wages that should have been paid in the first instance - we are not seeking to be punitive," Ms James said.

However, the Fair Work Ombudsman is willing to initiate legal proceedings where Compliance Notices are subsequently ignored and the Agency believes it is in the public interest to do so.

In February, the Fair Work Ombudsman announced it had commenced legal proceedings against two employers in Queensland and two in Victoria for allegedly failing to take action after being issued with Compliance Notices late last year.

Employers and employees seeking assistance should visit www.fairwork.gov.au or contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94. A free interpreter service is available by calling 13 14 50.

Helpful online tools include PayCheck Plus and an Award Finder to assist business owners and employees determine the correct award and minimum wages for their industry, templates for pay slips and time-and-wages records and a range of fact sheets on workplace entitlements.

An ‘Industries’ section on the website provides extra, specialised information for employers and employees in a range of industries, including retail, horticulture, road transport, accommodation and hospitality, cleaning, clerical, vehicle, electrical, fast food, building and construction, hair and beauty, joinery, metal manufacturing, social and community services, plumbing and security.

Dedicated website resources for small businesses, including a Fair Work Handbook and tips for new employers about hiring staff, are available at www.fairwork.gov.au/smallbusiness

Ms James says supporting small business with information and advice on workplace laws is a high priority for the Agency.

"We are striving to provide accessible, credible and reliable information, focusing our resources quite deliberately at times on the sectors we believe need the most assistance," she said.

Follow the Fair Work Ombudsman on Twitter @fairwork_gov_au external-icon.png or find us on Facebook external-icon.png.

Media inquiries:

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

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