The owner of an Adelaide bubble tea bar chain will face court over allegations the company underpaid its employees, many of whom were international students.
Legal documents filed by the Fair Work Ombudsman in the federal court on Wednesday allege the Yuxuan Group, which owns three Fun Tea outlets, underpaid workers a total of $186,895. The company’s director Yang Su is also facing allegations of record-keeping and pay slip breaches.
Allegations of underpayment at the chain first became public in February when video of a man slapping a female employee during a dispute about alleged unpaid wages went viral. The man, who was later convicted of assault, was not her boss or employed by the tea bar.
According to the court documents, the ombudsman alleges 20 workers, including the woman in the video, were paid as little as $10 an hour.
The ombudsman alleges the woman in the video, who was 20 at the time, had been underpaid $672 over two weeks in January.
The Working Women’s Centre, which is representing the young woman involved in the assault, declined to comment.
The ombudsman claims the company also underpaid workers penalty rates for evenings, weekends and public holidays; failed to pay superannuation and over time; did not allow several employees to take lunch breaks; and failed to keep proper records.
The ombudsman, Sandra Parker, said the matter was “serious”, especially as those on visas were vulnerable to workplace exploitation.
“All workers have the same rights in Australia regardless of nationality or visa status,” Parker said.
A directions hearing will be held in the federal court in November.
Jacky Chen, an organiser with the SA Labour Info Hub, welcomed the legal action, saying it would help encourage others to step forward.
“At the moment, I’ve got at least 10 people waiting for help and we’re trying to support them to take action,” he said. “In this case, there was video and lots of pressure on this shop. Now, what about the others?”
In separate court proceedings in June, Lei “Gavin” Guo, 39, pleaded guilty to slapping the young woman in the face .
Guo was convicted in August but released on a two-and-a-half year good behaviour bond by Magistrate John Fahey, who said he was a “good man” whose standing in the community had suffered significantly since the incident.
“I am satisfied you are a man of excellent character and satisfied you are unlikely to offend again,” Fahey said.
“I believe you are a good man but sometimes good people do bad things.”