Brisbane café operator penalised

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured penalties totalling $36,000 in court against the former operators of a Brisbane café for breaching a Fair Work Commission order by failing to pay compensation to an unfairly dismissed worker.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court has imposed a $30,000 penalty against G & G Group Trading Pty Ltd, which formerly operated Bar Spritz at Kangaroo Point, and a $6,000 penalty against Mr Giuseppe Virzi, its sole director.

The penalties were imposed in response to the company’s failure to comply with the FWC order, in breach of the Fair Work Act 2009, and Mr Virzi’s involvement with this contravention.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said business operators who do not prioritise compliance with workplace laws need to be aware they can face court-imposed penalties on top of having to back-pay workers.

“It is fundamental for the integrity of the workplace relations system that orders made by the Fair Work Commission are complied with, and we will take legal action to hold employers accountable and ensure employees receive compensation,” Ms Parker said.

“Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact us for free advice and assistance,” Ms Parker said.

Judge Salvatore Vasta said in his written judgment that Mr Virzi “questioned the authority of the FWC and disparaged the “deservedness” that [the dismissed worker] had to obtain an award from the FWC. He even dared the FWO to take action against him to enforce the order of the FWC”.

Judge Vasta said, in imposing penalty, that “It was not until the FWO commenced action in this Court, and the Second Respondent [Mr Virzi] received proper legal advice, that the Second Respondent actually decided to comply with an order with which he should have complied almost 9 months before.”

Judge Vasta said, “The Court must … make a very loud statement that the Fair Work Commission must be respected.”

In September 2020, the Fair Work Commission found that in November 2019, G & G Group Trading Pty Ltd unfairly dismissed a barista it had employed to work at Bar Spritz since 2017.

The FWC ordered the company to pay the worker $5,096.14 compensation, plus $677.78 in superannuation entitlements within three weeks.

The Fair Work Ombudsman began to investigate after the employee lodged a request for assistance after the company failed to make the payments to them.

Employers and employees can visit www.fairwork.gov.au 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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