The employees whose paychecks were docked were guest workers on sponsored visas, who had traveled to Australia from India and Nepal to find work. Other charges taken from their paychecks make it clear that this was not so much a case of a demanding boss, but taking advantage of workers in a legally and financially vulnerable position, who depended on sponsorship from the café to stay in the country. They were also charged as much as $1,200 for cooking demonstrations by the restaurant’s own head chef.
Restaurant owners here in the U.S. are allowed to deduct workers’ pay for breakage, dine-and-dash on their watch, and short cash drawers, but not to the point that it brings their pay below minimum wage. The U.S. Department of Labor guidelines say nothing about subpar club sandwiches and waffles.
The workers have since left the country, but each received AU$5,000 in compensation. The restaurant also had to pay a substantial fine, and is on notice for any future violations.