Italian restaurant operators penalised

22 August 2023

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured a total of $72,800 in penalties in court against the operators of an Italian restaurant in Melbourne.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court has imposed a $52,000 penalty against Champagne or Wine Pty Ltd, which operates ‘Mother Dough’ Italian restaurant in Hawthorn, and penalised company directors Jeffrey Dean Baldassarre and Allison Claire Barnes $10,400 each.

The penalties were imposed in response to a failure to comply with a Compliance Notice requiring the calculation and back-payment of entitlements to a young waiter and a failure to comply with a Notice to Produce records.

In addition to the penalties, Champagne or Wine Pty Ltd has been ordered to back-pay the worker in full, plus additional superannuation entitlements.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Kristen Hannah said business operators that fail to act on Notices issued by the FWO need to be aware they can face penalties in court.

“When Compliance Notices and Notice to Produce are not followed, we are prepared to take legal action to ensure we can fully investigate matters and ensure workers receive their lawful entitlements,” Ms Hannah said.

“Employers also need to be aware that taking action to improve compliance in the fast food, restaurant and café sector and to protect young workers are priorities for the FWO.

“Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact us for free advice and assistance.”

The FWO investigated after receiving a request for assistance from the affected worker.

The worker was employed at Mother Dough as a waiter on a casual basis 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 worker was underpaid minimum wages and penalty rates for evening and weekend work, under the Restaurant Industry Award 2010.

The company breached the Fair Work Act by failing to comply with the Compliance Notice and by failing to comply with a Notice to Produce records issued by the Fair Work Ombudsman during its investigation.

Mr Baldassarre and Ms Barnes were involved in the contraventions.

In imposing the penalties, Judge Caroline Kirton found that the contraventions were deliberate, and that Mr Baldassarre and Ms Barnes had displayed “a lack of understanding of the contravening conduct and indeed a lack of contrition”.

“The Respondents have demonstrated a stubborn determination not to take steps in compliance with the Compliance Notice and Notice to Produce, indicating that there is plainly a need for specific deterrence,” Judge Kirton said.

Judge Kirton also found that there was a need to impose penalties to deter other employers from similar conduct.

“The Court considers that general deterrence is desirable within the hospitality industry, particularly restaurants, given the propensity of employers to hire young and vulnerable staff, with little regard for their legal entitlements,” Judge Kirton said.

Employers and employees can visit or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance about their rights and obligations in the workplace. An interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.

Small businesses can find targeted resources at the Small Business Showcase and information is available for employees and employers at our fast food, restaurants & cafés, young workers and students and apprentices & trainees webpages.

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