Former Espresso Warriors franchisee in court

The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against the former operator of an Espresso Warriors café in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.

Facing court is HML Holdings Pty Ltd, which was the franchisee for the outlet located in the Highlands Marketplace on the Old Hume Highway, in Mittagong, until it ceased operating in 2022.

The regulator investigated after receiving a request for assistance from a worker HML Holdings Pty Ltd employed at the café as a full-time chef between June 2020 and February 2022.

A Fair Work Inspector issued a Compliance Notice to HML Holdings Pty Ltd in May 2022 after forming a belief the worker was not paid accrued but untaken annual leave entitlements at the end of his employment, owed under the Fair Work Act’s National Employment Standards.

It is alleged the employee, a visa holder from Nepal, is owed more than $6,000.

The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges HML Holdings Pty Ltd, without reasonable excuse, failed to comply with the Compliance Notice, which required it to calculate and back-pay the worker’s entitlements.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the regulator would continue to enforce workplace laws and take businesses to court where lawful requests are not complied with.

“Where employers do not comply, we will take appropriate action to protect employees. A court can order a business to pay penalties in addition to back-paying workers,” Ms Parker said.

“Employers should also be aware that taking action to protect vulnerable employees, such as migrant workers, is a priority for the agency.”

“Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for free assistance,” Ms Parker said.

The FWO is seeking penalties in court for an alleged failure to comply with the Compliance Notice. HML Holdings faces a penalty of up to $33,300.

The regulator is also seeking an order for the company to rectify the alleged underpayment amount to the worker, plus interest.

A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit and Family Court in Sydney on 16 December 2022.

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