The operator of a Melbourne restaurant is facing court after allegedly underpaying staff more than $26,000.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against Abdul Hafeez Bilwani, who owns and runs the Red Salmon restaurant at the Knox O-Zone shopping centre in Wantirna.

Also facing court is Bilwani’s company Finn Fish Pty Ltd.

It’s alleged that 13 employees, including six young workers aged 19 or 20, were underpaid a total of $26,707 between March and June last year.

Two employees worked in the kitchen and 11 performed general waiting and customer service duties.

The employees were allegedly paid flat rates of between $16.87 and $20.11 an hour.

Under the Restaurant Industry Award they would have been variously entitled to be paid $18.02 to $22.53 for normal hours and penalty rates ranging from $22.52 to $45.05 for weekend, night, public holiday and overtime work.

Shift allowances and annual leave entitlements were allegedly also underpaid. Bilwani and his company allegedly also contravened workplace laws by failing to keep proper employment records and failing to comply with a Notice to Produce pay records.

Alleged individual underpayments range from $154 to $4746.

The Fair Work Ombudsman investigated after an employee lodged a request for assistance.

The employees have now been back-paid in full. However, Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said the involvement of young workers and the fact that Bilwani had previously been put on notice of the need to pay employees’ their lawful minimum entitlements were significant factors in the decision to commence legal action.

Bilwani faces maximum penalties ranging from $5,100 to $10,200 per contravention and Finn Fish Pty Ltd faces penalties of between $25,500 and $51,000 per contravention.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking a Court Order requiring Bilwani and his company to commission a professional external audit of their pay practice next year and rectify any underpayments discovered.

A directions hearing is scheduled for the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne on August 22.


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