Gold Coast chocolate cafe Oliver Brown

The former manager of an Oliver Brown chocolate café on the Gold Coast has been fined $27,200 for exploiting overseas workers.

The Fair Work Ombudsman secured the penalty against Steven Chung in the Federal Circuit Court after he admitted being involved in the underpayment of 12 employees at the Oliver Brown café at Surfers Paradise.

The employees were underpaid a total of $24,575 between January and September 2015 and Chung was involved in the underpayments that occurred from 11 July, when he commenced as manager.

Seven of the employees were overseas workers, four were on 417 working holiday visas, with the others on a 457 skilled worker visa, 444 special category visa and a partner visa.

There were also four juniors among the 12 underpaid workers.

Judge Salvatore Vasta says Chung “discriminated against a number of employees, on, it would seem, the basis either of coming from a non-English speaking background, having a visa or their youth”.

The largest underpayment was $9188 of an adult Korean worker who was paid flat rates as low as $10 but was entitled to receive casual rates of up to $23.09 for ordinary hours, $27.71 on weekends and $46.18 on public holidays.

Other workers were underpaid amounts ranging from $83 to $3839.

Vasta found the rate of underpayment, extrapolated over the course of a year, would have resulted in total underpayments of $80,000.

“For any business to be, in effect, saving $80,000 in employee entitlements would give them a significant advantage over businesses that were mindful and respectful of their legal obligations to ensure that workers were properly paid,” says Vasta.

Vasta said the failure to provide pay slips to four of the workers was an “extremely serious breach of an employer’s obligations” and also showed a “level of discrimination by Mr Chung as to whom he gave pay slips and to whom he did not”.

The workers were back-paid in full late last year.

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