The Fair Work Ombudsmen took Saandeep Chokhani to Court for making a worker pay back $18,000 in wages through an unlawful cash-back scheme and successfully secured more than $180,000 in penalties.

Chokhani – who, with his wife, formerly owned and ran the Coffee Club franchise at the Nundah Village Shopping Centre – was penalised $30,000 and a company he and his wife are the directors of, Gaura Nitai Pty Ltd, was penalised a further $150,900, in the Federal Circuit Court.

The worker’s contract stated he was to be paid annual salary of $53,900 on a weekly basis – but he endured long periods without receiving any wages at all, including not receiving any wages for a four-month period from July to November 2014 and a one-month period in February-March 2015.

Judge Jarrett found that Chokhani had finally made a payment to the worker then told the worker to withdraw $18,000 in cash and repay it to him or Chokhani would take steps to cancel his 457 visa. The worker withdrew the cash the same day and repaid it to his employer.

The worker, an Indian national in his late 20s who was sponsored by Gaura Nitai to work as a cook at the Nundah Coffee Club, told the Court that the exploitation had led to him incurring credit card debt and needing to borrow money from family and friends.

In his penalty judgment, Judge Michael Jarrett said: “The exploitation of workers from other countries who are inspired to live and work in Australia with the hope of achieving permanent residency needs to be discouraged, in the strongest of terms whenever it is apparent that it has occurred. This is one of those cases.”

It is vital that you have contracts in place and that you meet the requirements of those contracts in terms of pay but equally terms of entitlements.

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