A Melbourne restaurateur, his two companies and in-house accountant have been penalised $209,000 for underpayments that occurred at two venues.

The underpaid employees worked at Tina’s Noodle Kitchen in Box Hill and Dainty Sichuan in the Melbourne CBD. They were mostly overseas workers on working holiday and student visas.

Ye Shao will pay penalties of $15,000, while his companies Wynn Sichuan Pty Ltd and Nine Dragons Pty Ltd will pay $95,000 and $88,000 respectively. Accountant Yizhu “Jessica” Ding was penalised $11,000 after admitting to being an accessory to the underpayment and record-keeping contraventions.

The regulator took action in 2017, after a June 2016 audit by Fair Work inspectors discovered $30,995 in underpayments: 17 employees at Dainty Sichuan were underpaid $18,190 and 13 employees at Tina’s Noodle Kitchen were underpaid $12,805.

Flat hourly rates of between $10 per hour and $23.33 per hour were paid and some employees worked six or seven days a week and over 10 hours per day. The underpayments were rectified before proceedings began.

“The exploitation of migrant workers is unacceptable as they can be particularly vulnerable in the workplace due to language barriers or visa status. Minimum wage rates apply to everyone in Australia, including visa-holders, and they are not negotiable,” said Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker.

Judge Grant Riethmuller took this background into account when handing down his decision.

Image: Jasmine Blom via Broadsheet

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