The former operator of a Thai restaurant in Melbourne has been penalised for underpaying a worker over a one-year period.

Absolute Thai Melbourne Pty Ltd Company Director Ronald Nah was taken to court by the Fair Work Ombudsman for failing to back-pay a worker at Wokks in Carlton, a restaurant which has now permanently closed.

The casual worker requested assistance from the Fair Work Ombudsman, with inspectors finding he had been underpaid the minimum wage, casual loading and weekend and public holiday penalty rates from July 2019 to July 2020.

The company was issued with two compliance notices requiring Nah to back-pay the worker, however he failed to do so.

“When compliance notices are not followed, we are prepared to take legal action to ensure workers receive their lawful entitlements,” said Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker.

“Employers also need to be aware that taking action to improve compliance in the fast food, restaurant and café sector continues to be a priority for the FWO.”

The court imposed a $16,650 penalty against Absolute Thai and a $3,330 penalty against Nah.

The court has also ordered the company to comply with the aforementioned notices and back-pay the worker in full.

Judge Catherine Symons said the penalty should stand as a motivator for businesses to ensure they are paying workers properly.

“The penalty that is imposed must be fixed at a rate which is meaningful and acts as a deterrent so that other companies (including those that operate in the café and restaurant industry) have a real incentive to comply,” said Judge Symons.