Meatball and Wine Bar fined $31K for shortchanging workers
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Meatball and Wine Bar fined $31K for shortchanging workers

Melbourne restaurant operator Meatball and Wine Bar has been fined $31,320 for underpaying 26 workers at three restaurants.

The Federal Circuit Court imposed the penalty after the company admitted to underpaying 26 workers, including visa holders, at the Melbourne CBD, Richmond and Collingwood restaurants.

The Meatball and Wine Bar in Richmond.

The Meatball and Wine Bar in Richmond.

Photo: Simon Schluter

The total of $14,149 in underpayments between July 4 and October 2, 2016, were rectified in June 2017, before the Fair Work Ombudsman took the matter to court.

The employees worked as wait staff or kitchen hands and were paid flat rates between $17.31 and $21.69 an hour, and included 11 on student or working holiday visas. All but four were aged in their 20s.

The Fair Work Ombudsman said the flat rates led to the underpayment of entitlements including minimum wage rates, overtime rates, casual loadings and penalty rates.

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The court also found the restaurants failed to keep proper employee records, as legally required.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said an inspector discovered the underpayments after auditing restaurants in popular food precincts in 2016.

"Employers must ensure they comply with their lawful obligation to pay employees the minimum pay rates they are entitled to, as Fair Work inspectors may arrive to check records any time," Ms Parker said.

"The Fair Work Ombudsman will continue to target industries where we are concerned about the underpayment of overseas workers, as they can be particularly vulnerable and reluctant to request our assistance."

Anna Patty is Workplace Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald. She is a former Education Editor, State Political Reporter and Health Reporter. Her reports on inequity in schools funding led to the Gonski reforms and won her national awards. Her coverage of health exposed unnecessary patient deaths at Campbelltown Hospital and led to judicial and parliamentary inquiries. At The Times of London, she exposed flaws in international medical trials.