Italian Restaurant Owner Fined $335,000 For Paying Employees In Pizza And Soda

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An Australian restaurant is facing a $335,000 fine after a federal labor investigation found him guilty of underpaying 111 teenagers by more than $250,000 in wages over the last four years. He was, instead, paying them in pizza and soda.

Ruby Chand, the owner of two La Porchetta chain Italian restaurants in Melbourne, was found guilty of breaking numerous employment laws after the federal circuit court opened an investigation to look into his suspicious business handling, reports The Age. Besides illegally offering his employees half-priced pizza and soda to “offset” their withheld wages and annual leave entitlements, Chand claimed more than $45,000 in Commonwealth benefits because a number of his workers were employed under a training program.

“Such a practice belongs in the dark ages,” Judge John O’Sullivan said.

The irresistible inference was the conduct engaged in was part of a deliberate course of conduct by the respondents as to how the business, if it could be called that, was run.”

Among the fines that Chand now faces include: $79,000 in outstanding back-pay entitlements, $139,507.50 for each of the companies operating the restaurants, and a personal fine of $55,803.

Following the case involving the Italian food franchise, La Porchetta’s head office issued a statement that the company was onboard with the decision and fully expected all of its restaurants’ staff to comply with the Fair Work Act and pay their employees properly.

“While we know it is difficult for all small businesses to keep up with the changes, we make every effort to support our restaurants to be fully compliant and are confident that our franchisees are committed to meeting or exceeding their obligations,” chief executive Sara Pantaleo said.

“We value the staff who work for our franchisees. We wish the staff of Berwick and Pakenham well and we are sorry if they had a negative experience working for these restaurants.”