The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured a total of $23,000 in penalties in court against the former operators of a Sydney restaurant.

The Federal Circuit Court has imposed a $20,000 penalty against Sails Waterfront Bar & Grill Pty Ltd, which formerly operated Sails Waterfront Bar & Grill at Sandringham, and a $3,000 penalty against the company’s sole director, Robert Sunna.

The penalties were imposed in response to the company breaching the Fair Work Act by failing to comply with a Compliance Notice requiring it to back-pay an employee. Mr Sunna was involved in the breach.

The Court has also ordered Sails Waterfront Bar & Grill Pty Ltd to take the action required by the Compliance Notice, which includes rectifying the underpayment owed to the worker in full, plus superannuation and interest.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the regulator would continue to enforce laws in a proportionate manner during the COVID-19 pandemic and business operators that fail to act on Compliance Notices need to be aware they can face court-imposed penalties on top of having to back-pay workers.

“When Compliance Notices are not followed, we are prepared to take legal action to ensure workers receive their lawful entitlements,” Ms Parker said.

“Employers also need to be aware that taking action to improve compliance in the fast food, restaurant and café sector continues to be a priority for the FWO. Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact us for free advice and assistance.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman investigated after receiving a request for assistance from a worker, a visa holder from Bangladesh.

The worker had been employed at Sails Waterfront Bar & Grill as a food and beverage attendant.

A Fair Work Inspector issued a Compliance Notice to Sails Waterfront Bar & Grill in February 2020 after forming a belief the company had failed to pay the worker his accrued but untaken annual leave, owed under the Restaurant Industry Award 2010, at the end of his employment.

Judge Nicholas Manousaridis found that the breach was deliberate and that there was a need to impose a penalty to deter others from similar conduct.

“The penalty should be set at a level that should signal not only to employers in the restaurant and café industry, but to all employers that a wilful disregard of a notice lawfully issued will be met with a significant penalty,” Judge Manousaridis said.

Employers and employees can visit or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance about their rights and obligations in the workplace. An interpreter service is available on 13 14 50. Small businesses can find targeted resources at the Small Business Showcase.

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