The husband and wife operators of two Adelaide Vietnamese restaurants are facing the Fair Work Ombudsman in court over accusations the couple underpaid 36 Mr Viet workers $407,546.

The alleged underpayments affected mostly Vietnamese international students aged under 25 and took place between 2018 and 2021, with amounts ranging from $74 up to $58,000.

Operators Viet Quoc Mai and Huong Le will attend court shortly to address the underpayments and additional workplace contraventions that were discovered during a surprise audit of Adelaide food outlets in 2021.

Inspectors found workers were paid using two different hourly rates, one of which was paid to their bank accounts ($16-26.90) and the other a flat hourly rate paid in cash ($15), resulting in underpaid minimum wages, casual loading, and penalties for weekend work, public holidays, and overtime.

More than 100 incorrect pay slips were provided to inspectors that all failed to show the cash payments, with workers instructed to lie to inspectors and delete evidence after inspectors attended the businesses.

It’s alleged Mai made deductions from wages for costs associated with leaving a fridge open over the weekend, breaking a door, and incorrectly charging a customer.

There was also an alleged ‘strike’ system in place for errors that were recorded.

Once a worker had six strikes, they were required to purchase food and beverages for the operators and other staff working at the time.

Mai and Le face penalties of up to $126,000 or $133,200 per serious contravention, with other penalties spanning from $12,600 to $13,320.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking a court order to rectify the underpayments.