Crust pizza franchisee heads to court for alleged staff underpayment

Credit: Crust Gourmet Pizza bar

Legal action has commenced against a Melbourne franchisee of Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar for allegedly short-changing seven workers a total of $35,725.

The claim was brought against the Cheltenham Crust outlet, owned by Desire Food Pty Ltd, and company director and part-owner Chern Ming 'Rick' Lee, after an employee contacted the Fair Work Ombudsman for help.

After an investigation, the inspectors allege that this employee was underpaid a total of $30,416 over a three year period running from October 2013 to May 2016 due failing to pay minimum ordinary hourly rates, casual loadings, annual leave entitlements, a special clothing allowance and penalty rates.

The investigation also revealed several other alleged breaches of workplace law involving six other employees, and involved underpayments ranging from $20 to $2,481 between May and August 2017. 

When asked to provide documentation, the Fair Work Ombudsman alleges that Desire Food and Lee provided inspectors with false and misleading records that showed employees had been paid higher rates than they actually had.

The workers had been employed as either delivery drivers or pizza makers, and three were living in Australia on student visas.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman has taken a fast food franchisee to court today because we have a strong focus on protecting the workplace rights of vulnerable workers in Australia," said Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker.

“We are conscious that age, language and cultural barriers, a lack of awareness about workplace entitlements and a reluctance to complain can create difficulties for some workers.

“More broadly, it is a priority for the Fair Work Ombudsman to ensure that fast food, restaurant and cafe workers receive their correct wages and entitlements.

“Improving workplace compliance across the sector will help to eliminate the unfair competitive advantage gained by employers who underpay staff.“

If found in breach of Australian workplace law, Desire Food faces penalties of up to $63,000 per contravention while Lee faces penalties of up to $12,600 per contravention.

The Fair Work Ombudsmam is also seeking court orders for Desire Food to commission and report on an audit of its compliance with workplace laws, and undertake workplace relations training for managers.

For more information or assistance, please visit fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.