Fair Work Ombudsman targets cafe owner for allegedly underpaying 31 staff by $30k

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A Hobart cafe and hotel owner is facing legal action over allegations he underpaid his staff by more than $30,000.

Action is being taken against Gary Dupree, the part-owner and director of Garich Pty Ltd, which formerly operated Solstice Cafe Restaurant in Salamanca and operates Jimmy D’s Bar and Grill and The Moonah Hotel in Moonah.

The company is now in liquidation, while Solstice has closed.

Last month the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) filed documents with the Federal Circuit Court alleging Mr Dupree breached the Restaurant and Hospitality awards by failing to pay minimum wage entitlements, penalty rates and annual leave loading.

The court action follows two compliance notices issued to the company in October 2020.

The alleged breaches were first picked up in November 2019 when FWO representatives visited the Solstice cafe.

Following the visit, an inspector conducted an audit of Mr Dupree’s businesses alleging that, between July 2018 and February 2020, employees at both Solstice and The Moonah Hotel had not been paid correct rates “in respect of base pay, overtime or evening work, work on a Saturday, Sunday and Public Holiday and annual leave loading”.

Compliance notices issued in October required the company to identify the employees that had been underpaid, calculate how much they were owed, pay them, record the unpaid amounts and correct any unpaid super.

The FWO asked the company to provide the evidence it had complied by the end of November.

Staff not paid for overtime

The company, however, allegedly failed to make any of the payments or produce evidence of compliance by the required date, or ever.

In the claim, the FWO alleges that Garich’s two full-time employees were both required to work overtime, with the chef at Solstice expected to work at least 45 hours per week.

They were not paid overtime rates.

The FWO further alleges that full-time employees were not required to complete timesheets and there was no record of overtime hours.

In total the FWO claims 31 wait and kitchen staff were underpaid under the awards between July 2018 and February 2020 to a total of $30,000, with the employees including a number of visa holders and young workers.

Penalties for breaches mounting up

The FWO is seeking a declaration that Mr Dupree failed to comply with the notices and obligations to keep records. It also wants him  to pay a pecuniary penalty for the alleged breaches.

He faces penalties of up to $6,300 per breach of the compliance notice, taking it to a total of $12,600, and a penalty of up to $12,600 for the alleged record-keeping breach.

The FWO will seek a court order that any penalties paid are distributed to the affected employees to partially rectify the alleged underpayments.

In a statement, Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the regulator would continue to enforce workplace laws.

“Where business operators do not respond to or comply with these notices, we will take appropriate enforcement action to protect employees,” she said.

“Any employees with concerns about their pay should contact the FWO.”

The defence has yet to be filed.

(Original ABC Article)