Over $200,000 penalties for restaurant underpayments

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured penalties of $209,000 against a Melbourne restaurateur, his two companies and his in-house accountant for underpaying workers.

The employees, mostly overseas workers on working holiday and student visas, were underpaid at Tina's Noodle Kitchen in Box Hill and Dainty Sichuan, on Swanston Street in the Melbourne CBD.

The Federal Circuit Court ordered Ye Shao to pay penalties of $15,000 and his companies Wynn Sichuan Pty Ltd and Nine Dragons Pty Ltd to pay $95,000 and $88,000 respectively.

The companies' in-house accountant Yizhu "Jessica" Ding admitted to being an accessory to the underpayment and record-keeping contraventions, and penalised $11,000.

During an audit in June 2016, Fair Work inspectors found that 30 employees across the two restaurants had been underpaid a total of $30,995 and the regulator took action in 2017.

Inspectors found that 17 employees at Dainty Sichuan were underpaid $18,190 and 13 employees at Tina's Noodle Kitchen were underpaid $12,805.

Employees were paid flat hourly rates of between $10 per hour and $23.33 per hour in breach of the Restaurant Industry Award 2010. Some worked six or seven days a week, and over 10 hours per day.