Former Cairns restaurant operator in court

The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against the former operator of a restaurant located in Cairns, Queensland.

Facing court is Buffalos Cairns Operations Pty Ltd which operated a restaurant trading as Buffalo’s at Smithfield Shopping Centre. The restaurant stopped trading last year.

The regulator began an investigation after receiving requests for assistance from three workers employed at the restaurant for various periods.

The workers included a part-time cook, part-time food and beverage attendant and a full-time operations manager.

Two of the three workers were visa holders.

A Fair Work Inspector issued Compliance Notices to Buffalos Cairns Operations in January 2021 after forming a belief the three workers had not been paid all entitlements owed under the Restaurant Industry Award and the National Employment Standards.

The inspector formed a belief that two of the employees were not paid their annual leave loading entitlements and that all three were not paid their accrued but untaken annual leave entitlements when their employment ended in 2020.

The FWO alleges Buffalos Cairns Operations Pty Ltd, without reasonable excuse, failed to comply with the Compliance Notices, which required it to calculate and back-pay workers’ 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.”

“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. Buffalos Cairns Operations Pty Ltd faces a maximum penalty of up to $33,300 for each of the three alleged Compliance Notice contraventions.

The regulator is also seeking an order for the company to comply with the Compliance Notices, which includes rectifying any underpayments in full, plus interest.

A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit and Family Court in Brisbane on 9 November 2021.

Employers and employees can visit 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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