FILE IMAGE Che Chapman

Fast food outlet accused of underpaying worker, 71

A ROCKHAMPTON fast food outlet has been accused of underpaying a 71-year-old cook by over $12,000.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against the former operator of Wok Me Corporate NQ Pty Ltd, in a case which sets the record for having the oldest allegedly underpaid worker involved in any legal action by the ombudsman.

Luke McGrath formerly owned and operated several Wok Me outlets in Queensland and the ACT.

The ombudsman is alleging the company did not pay any wages to the man for nine of the weeks he worked as a cook at the Rockhampton Wok Me outlet.

This totals $12,658, and occurred in a period of four months last year.

"It is alleged that for the weeks he was paid wages, the rates he was paid sometimes undercut the minimum hourly rate for ordinary hours stipulated in the Individual Flexibility Agreement that applied to his position," Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said in a statement.

"Overtime, annual leave and superannuation entitlements were allegedly also underpaid and record-keeping and pay slip laws were allegedly contravened."

Although the man has been living in Australia for many years and is an Australian citizen, he was born and raised in China and has limited English skills.

An investigation was initiated when the man contacted the ombudsman.

"We are conscious that mature age employees are vulnerable in the workplace because they face fewer opportunities and can be reluctant to complain, so we treat cases involving mature age workers seriously," Ms James said.

"It is important that mature age workers who are keen to participate in the workforce are able to do so without being underpaid or treated unfairly."

Mr McGrath faces maximum penalties of up to $10,800 per contravention and Wok Me Corporate NQ Pty Ltd faces penalties of up to $54,000 per contravention.

The majority of the alleged underpayment remains outstanding and the Fair Work Ombudsman is seeking a Court Order for Mr McGrath and the company to back-pay the worker in full.

The ombudsman is also requesting an order requiring external audits of Individual Flexibility Agreements to be commissioned at other businesses he operates.

A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane for February 5, 2018.

The Morning Bulletin was unsuccessful in attempts to contact Mr McGrath yesterday.

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