DTF World Square, Din Tai Fung and Emporium Store fined $4m in ‘scheme to rob employees’

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Popular Taiwanese restaurants and senior staff members have been fined a total of $4m by the Federal Court for exploiting vulnerable workers in a “calculated scheme to rob employees”.

The Fair Work Ombudsman took action against DTF World Square, which employed workers at Din Tai Fang restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as another company Selden Farlane Lachland Investments, which employed people at the Emporium store.

The Federal Court found the two companies knowingly and systematically committed multiple breaches of the Fair Work Act, and created fake records to hide their wrongdoing from authorities.

The Federal Court imposed penalties of $1.99m to DTF World Square and $1.89m to Seldon Farlane Lachlan Investments.

Senior staff members at DTF World Square were also fined, with general manager Hannah Handoko ordered to pay $92,232 in penalties, along with HR co-ordinator Sinthiana Parmenas who was fined $105,084.

Justice Anna Katzmann found the two companies and senior management “deliberately deprived the employees of their legislated entitlements” and disguised “their wrongdoing through the creation of a false set of records”.

The court heard their conduct was extremely serious and not just merely deliberate wrongdoing.

“It was deceitful and unscrupulous,” Justice Katzman said.

“It involved a calculated scheme to rob employees of their hard-earned wages and deceive the authorities.”

The two companies deliberately underpaid 17 employees $157,025 under the Restaurant Industry Award 2010.

They also kept and gave false records to Fair Work Inspectors.

The workers who were affected were mostly visa holders from Indonesia and China, on student or employer-sponsored visas, and engaged in casual roles.

The four full-time employees were sponsored by DTF World Square and another 10 workers were under 26 at the start of their alleged underpayment period.

The court found five contraventions related to false records and the underpayment of casual loading and weekend and public holiday penalty rates.

Under the Protecting Vulnerable Workers law, because of the deliberate and systematic conduct of the offending, the contraventions were deemed serious.

The maximum penalties for serious contraventions under the laws are 10 times the penalties which would ordinarily apply.

The court found Ms Handoko and Ms Parmenas were involved in some of the companies’ contraventions, but serious contraventions were not alleged against them.

Fair Work Ombudsman Anna Booth said the penalties were the second-highest secured in their history and underlined the seriousness of the offences.

“We welcome these penalties that demonstrate the serious nature of the offending by the respondents in this matter,” she said.

“Their actions resulted in vulnerable migrant workers being underpaid hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“The court has characterised the conduct of Din Tai Fung as a calculated scheme to rob employees of their hard-earned wages.

“Lawful minimum rates apply to all employees in Australia and they are not negotiable.

“All workers in Australia have the same rights, regardless of nationality and visa status.”