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Restaurant allegedly underpaid one worker $150,000

(Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

A western Sydney restaurant is facing court over allegations that it underpaid one worker more than $150,000.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is taking the two owners of the Blue Moon Indian restaurant in Wentworthville to the Federal Circuit Court for their treatment of a staffer brought in on a 457 skilled worker visa.

According to the Ombudsman, one of the owners opened a bank account under the name of the worker, regularly paying into it correct amounts corresponding to the worker's salary of $54,000.

But in reality, it is alleged the restaurant owners controlled the account and didn't give the employee access to it.

The worker was instead paid about $400 to $450 a week in cash – equating to only about $20,000 to $23,000 in salary – alleged the Ombudsman.

This is despite usually working 11 to 12 hours a day in the kitchen for six days a week.

The restaurant owners are also accused of retaining the bank card for the account and using up the funds.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the alleged underpayment of more than $150,000 below industry awards was found when the worker requested help after his stint at the Blue Moon had finished.

"The conduct alleged in this case is extremely serious and completely unacceptable in Australian workplaces," she said.

"We will not hesitate to take legal action in response to alleged blatant breaches of vulnerable migrant workers’ rights. Employers in the fast food, restaurant and cafe sector are on notice that they must pay all employees according to Australia’s lawful minimum pay rates."

Aside from the underpayment through cash, the Blue Moon owners are accused of illegally demanding the staffer pay back some of the wages given to him.

The owners are facing fines and the Ombudsman will seek to force them to back-pay the workers plus interest.

A directions hearing is scheduled for the Federal Circuit Court in Parramatta on October 25.

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