Dumpling joint fined for 'calculated' plan to rob staff

Popular dumpling chain Din Tai Fung and two of its managers have been hit with $4 million in fines for deliberately underpaying workers and attempting to cover it up.

The Taiwanese restaurant chain has been ordered by the Federal Court to pay $3.89 million, while its general manager Hannah Handoko was fined $92,232 and human relations manager Sinthiana Parmenas $105,084.

The proceedings brought by the Fair Work Ombudsman related to at least 17 workers at the chain's Sydney and Melbourne restaurants during a four year period from July 2014 to June 2018.

The bulk of the contraventions took place between November 2017 and June 2018.

But affected workers, who were underpaid amounts ranging from $2300 to more than $50,000, may not recoup all their lost earnings as the company went into administration after the Federal Court proceedings began.

Justice Anna Katzmann on Tuesday ruled the employers, along with senior management, deliberately deprived the workers of their legislated entitlements and disguised their wrongdoing through a false set of records.

Staff were forced to work unreasonable hours and were being underpaid with no penalties or overtime rates.

Justice Katzmann said employees required to work more than 38 hours a week had to do so on multiple occasions, some every week of the year.

The company covered up their actions by deliberately creating false payslips, timesheets and providing their staff with the false documents.

"The contravening conduct was not isolated, ad hoc or inadvertent," the justice said.

Of the 17 workers affected, 16 were under the age of 30 and 15 were migrants on a range of temporary visas, including student visas.

"All of these employees are fairly characterised as vulnerable," she said.

"It goes without saying that the respondents' conduct was extremely serious."

Justice Katzmann described the actions as "not merely deliberate wrongdoing" but "deceitful and unscrupulous".

"It involved a calculated scheme to rob employees of their hard-earned wages and deceive the authorities."

Underpayments continued even while the ombudsman was investigating the claims.

The court heard visa holders were deliberately hired over Australian citizens to avoid their business practices coming to the attention of authorities.

One impacted worker said he was told by a manager that hiring an Australian citizen could result in them "reporting us to Gov department" if they were not happy with the payments.

The company in February 2018 was employing more than 400 workers with an annual turnover for the previous financial year of $7.25 million and a gross payroll of over $3.5 million.

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store