Malaysian restaurant chain Mamak is back in court again over alleged staff underpayments

Mamak Haymarket. Source: Facebook

The owners of the popular and cheap street food chain Mamak are facing more legal action over staff underpayments less than a year after they were fined $300,000 over the issue.

Mamak is routinely lauded as one of Sydney’s best value restaurants, with long queues of diners outside the Chinatown branch, but last year the Federal Court penalised the company and three of its directors $294,848 for deliberately short-changing employees and using false records to disguise the underpayments.

Six employees — five were visa-holders from non-English speaking backgrounds — were collectively underpaid more than $87,000, earning as little as $11 an hour between February 2012 and April 2015.

The severity of the penalties, close to the maximum under the law, was in part due to the fact that false records were given to Fair Work Inspectors in a bid to hide the underpayments.

Today the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) began legal action against Mamak’s operators again, alleging they deliberately short-changed two Sydney employees and used false records to try to disguise the underpayments.

Joon Hoe Lee, Julian Lee and Alan Wing-Keung Au — who run two Mamak restaurants in Sydney and one in Melbourne — and their company Mamak Pty Ltd are facing court.

The FWO alleges two workers at Mamak in Chatswood were paid as little as $12 and $13 an hour between 2014 and 2016.

One employee was an Australian citizen, the other, from Singapore on student and bridging visas. The both worked as waiters.

During the previous court case, the company’s owners gave sworn evidence that their business had changed its practices to ensure future compliance.

The FWO alleges the underpayment of the two employees occurred while the first proceedings were before the Court and alleges other contraventions occurred even after those penalties were imposed.

Joon Hoe Lee, Julian Lee and Alan Wing-Keung Au face penalties of up to $10,800 per contravention and Mamak Pty Ltd faces penalties of up to $54,000 per contravention.

An injunction restraining the trio and the company from underpaying workers in future is also being sought. If granted, they could face contempt of court proceedings if further underpayments are proven in court.

A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit Court in Sydney on 20 June.

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